Ex-South Carolina cop's shooting of motorist was murder: judge


Thursday morning a federal judge ruled Michael Slager committed murder in the second degree on the day he shot and killed Walter Scott.

The case made global headlines when a cell phone video of the shooting surfaced, and became a flashpoint in the ongoing debate about the use of force by police. "As life goes on, my father will never see me play high school football, graduate from high school, graduate from college", said Miles Scott as he held back tears. Prosecutors believe the videos depict the officer's callous behavior. The state retrial and federal trial were expected to take place this year, but instead, in May Slager pleaded guilty to violating Scott's civil rights in federal court, ending the federal case against him and also resolving the state charges that were pending after the mistrial.

Slager was terminated by the force after the shooting and appeared in court as a former officer.

"I forgive Michael Slager". His murder trial ended with a deadlocked jury a year ago, and prosecutors had vowed to retry Slager in state court.

On April 4, 2015, Slager was an officer with the North Charleston Police Department when he stopped 50-year-old Scott for a broken taillight.

The officer has said he shot Scott in self-defense after fearing for his own life when the man grabbed the weapon and turned it toward him.

When asked by a prosecutor whether he agreed that Scott was unarmed and running away, Slager testified that he did not realize the Taser had fallen behind him when he fired the fatal shots. Prosecutors think it's murder, making Slager eligible for a life sentence. State prosecutors were set to retry him earlier this year, but as part of a plea agreement, Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation for using excessive force and SC agreed to drop the murder charge.

Slager was then criticized for trying to stage a scene to back up his claim of self-defense, by placing his stun gun beside Scott.

Fishman for the prosecution said Slager did not mention a violent fight with Scott when he initially reported what happened.

The men move out of view of the dashcam. But after the shooting, the Scott family successfully pleaded for calm, asking everyone to let the justice system run its course. Slager, who is white, fired five times into Scott's back as he ran away. He analyzed the cell phone video of the shooting for the defense and showed blurred still images of the video in court.

Slager stopped the auto Scott was driving for a broken rear brake light in North Charleston in April 2015.

Hallimore testified during the State's murder trial in November of a year ago. He said that Slager and Scott had physically struggled before the shooting, and that explained the officer's state of mind. The state murder charge was dropped as part of Slager's federal plea deal.

"We shouldn't be deprived of justice because of the sloppiness of the government's investigation", Savage said, calling into question DNA and stun gun examinations done by state police.

During tearful statements in court, several members of Scott's family said they forgave the officer and were praying for him.