Courtesy of Charleston County
Michael T. Slager
The state trial for Michael Slager, the former North Charleston police officer charged with the shooting of Walter Scott, remains on track to begin Oct. 31.
Slager appeared in a Charleston courtroom Tuesday as attorneys for the defense and prosecution discussed the possible conflicts that might arise as his trial is set to overlap with the federal trial of accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof, which will begin Nov. 7.
Slager’s defense attorney Andy Savage is also providing legal counsel for several of the family members of the victims and survivors of last June’s shooting at Mother Emanuel. Savage had previously petitioned the judge overseeing Roof’s federal trial to excuse him from all court appearances from mid October to Jan. 15, 2017 — a move that would have put the trial date for Slager in question. According to the request filed by Savage, it appears that the two adult survivors of the Mother Emanuel shooting and the family members he represents are likely to be called to testify during Roof’s federal trial. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who is overseeing the trial, rejected Savage’s request, ruling that the attorney should seek a protective order from the courts in which he wishes to be excused from appearing.
On the other side of the aisle, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, who is leading the prosecution in both Slager and Roof’s state trials, voiced her concern over the lack of “breathing room” between court dates. Wilson estimated that Slager’s trial will last approximately three weeks, but she said she must also prepare for jury selection in the state trial for Roof, which will begin Dec. 6.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman said in court Tuesday that nothing he has heard thus far from attorneys gives him reason to change the start date for Slager’s trial. Newman added that he is fully focused on the trial, but Wilson made it clear that she could not simply “hone in” on Slager’s case alone.
After discussing the issues of scheduling, much of Tuesday’s hearing focused on the defense’s requests for evidence from prosecutors, much of which involved the notes taken by SLED investigators during interviews with Slager and witnesses involved with the case. Attorneys for the defense told the judge that they are hoping to examine the original notes to find any possible contradictory statements in the findings of investigators. The defense is usually not permitted access to such documents, but Judge Newman said he would examine the notes and make a decision at a later date. The defense also requested documents related to the $6.5 million civil settlement between the City of North Charleston and the family of Walter Scott, arguing that they might point to an “inference to municipal fault in policies and procedures” related to Scott’s death.
Following Tuesday’s hearing, Solicitor Wilson said that her main concern with trial scheduling is the consideration of the victims. While she admitted that it will be taxing to transition from Slager’s trial to jury selection for Roof, she said that the prosecution will be ready for the start of both trials.