Court adjourns for week after jury sees video of shooting
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A fired police officer’s defense team couldn’t keep jurors from seeing a cellphone video Friday that shows him killing an unarmed man who was running away, so they spent much of the day trying to discredit the man who recorded it.
Jurors at Michael Slager’s murder trial wore headphones as prosecutors played the video, which has been seen millions of times on the internet, shocking the conscience of a nation already sickened by violent encounters between police and the public.
Recorded at the scene in April 2015 by a bystander, it shows black motorist Walter Scott wrestling with the white officer over a stun gun, and then breaking away. Slager then shoots him in the back from a distance and he crumples to the ground.
“For some reason I decided to use my phone to record and prevent something that might happen,” testified Feidin Santana, a 25-year-old barber. “It was something I will never forget.”
Slager had pulled Scott over for a broken taillight on the used Mercedes he just picked up.
Slager’s defense had sought to keep the video out of the trial but didn’t object after Santana took the stand. The defense did ask that jurors be instructed that the proper perspective to consider the action would be from the perspective of the officer. They also wanted the judge to prevent the video from being shown in slow-motion.
Judge Clifton Newman denied both requests, saying “I don’t seek to control the manner in which the state presents its evidence.”
Slager, who was swiftly fired from the force and charged with murder after the video surfaced, faces 30 years to life if convicted.
The defense says the two men fought over the Taser, but Santana said he never saw it in Scott’s hands, and never saw Scott on top of the officer. He said Scott got away and began running before he was shot down.