Ex-officer’s lawyer challenges probe of black motorist death
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A fired white police officer’s defense lawyer hammered away Wednesday at the state investigation in the fatal shooting of a black motorist, noting citizens using a toy metal detector found evidence missed at the crime scene.
Crime scene investigator Jamie Johnson testified that about two weeks after the shooting in April 2015, she returned to the scene because experts hired by defense attorney Andy Savage alerted investigators two more bullets had been recovered.
“Did you know the two projectiles were found by citizens?” Savage asked on cross-examination.
“That’s the first I’m hearing it,” Johnson replied.
He then asked if she knew what kind of metal detector was used to find the bullets near a fence by the empty lot where Walter Scott was fatally shot trying to flee from Michael Slager.
“Did you know it was a Fisher-Price toy?” the attorney asked. “No,” Johnson responded.
There was no mention whether the bullets found were fired from Slager’s service weapon. A cellphone video of Slager, a former North Charleston patrolman, shooting the 50-year-old Scott stunned the nation.
Another prosecution witness, Medical University of South Carolina forensic pathologist Dr. Lee Marie Tormos, showed the jurors pictures of the Scott’s autopsy and testified his wounds were consistent with the cellphone video.
She said Scott had lacerations on his hands, wrists and arms consistent with a fight on an asphalt surface. Slager’s defense team contends the two men struggled over the officer’s stun gun and Scott got control of it before the shooting.
The video shows Scott running away without the stun gun and Slager firing eight times at his back.
Forensic toxicologist Demetra Garvin interpreted lab results of toxicology tests and testified Scott had cocaine in his system which could have been ingested anywhere from several days to several hours before the shooting.
Under cross-examination she agreed cocaine can make people aggressive.
The toxicology report referenced one Pennsylvania study of people hospitalized for cocaine abuse.
Garvin said the average amount of cocaine in the systems of people in that study was less than in Scott’s body.
Before Garvin testified, the prosecution asked the judge to block Savage from asking Garvin if Scott was a chronic cocaine user.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman asked Garvin, with the jury out of the courtroom, if she could conclude Scott was a chronic user based on the autopsy result, his discharge from a job for drugs two years ago and a marijuana arrest nearly three decades before that. She said she could not, and the judge said the defense could not raise the issue.