Courtesy of Charleston County
New court documents filed by the attorneys of former North Charleston officer Michael Slager grabbed headlines Tuesday, calling into question the media's role in the trial. According to reports, the 150-page document alleges that Walter Scott, the North Charleston man gunned down by Slager in April, turned the officer's Taser against him before Slager opened fire.
Information released in Tuesday's filing also includes Scott's toxicology report, which returned trace amounts of cocaine and alcohol, the former officer's account of the incident and letters from North Charleston police personnel supporting Slager.
Slager's defense team submitted the paperwork prior to a hearing scheduled for Thursday during which Circuit Judge Clifton Newman will consider a request for bail.
Attorneys for Scott's family also released new information Tuesday, revealing photos of the injuries Slager allegedly received during his confrontation with Scott. The photos show small abrasions to the officer's hand and knee, which the family's lawyers described as minor.
Shortly after news of the filing began to spread, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson released a statement criticizing the defense team's handling of the media, writing, “... it is best for the administration of justice that I not join in the media side show.”
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson
But in controversial cases such as the murder of Walter Scott, Wilson's decision to remain quiet has become the minority position among prosecutors, who originally began to use the media decades ago, according to Margaret Mackenzie, media expert in high-profile case management and author of “Courting the Media: Public Relations for the Accused and the Accuser.”
In the past, Mackenzie has worked with the attorneys of Casey Anthony, as well as represented Johnnie Cochran, and says that Slager's lead defense attorney, Andy Savage, is just using every available resource to defend his client.
Savage talks about reputation a great deal on his website, Mackenzie said. “So it's not just about being found innocent. It's about preserving reputation. So he's going to be someone who's very familiar with the news media and they with him.”
According to the media expert, lawyers should feel that it is their obligation to represent their client not only in the courtroom, but also in the court of public opinion.
Representatives for the local chapter of the National Action Network publicly asked that Slager be denied bond at Thursday's hearing.
“Clearly from the video, he shot Walter Scott running away from him. The whole world saw Mr. Slager shoot Mr. Scott,” said Elder James Johnson, Charleston chapter president of the National Action Network. “And if you do have a bond hearing, the whole world will watch the Charleston justice system fail that family.”
Johnson says his organization believes Slager poses a flight risk and urges concerned members of the community to appear at tomorrow's hearing to express their feelings toward Slager's possible release.
“If Slager were to be released on bond, that would just open up a wound for more demonstrations, probably more important demonstrations than there have ever been in Charleston because the eyes of the world are going to be looking back on Charleston if Slager gets a bond hearing,” said Johnson, whose organization is prepared to organize protests regarding the hearing.
(L-R) Pastor Thomas Dixon and Elder James Johnson