Grace Beahm/Post and Courier
Michael Slager testifies in state court about the shooting of Walter Scott
The limits of Michael Slager’s memory led to a heated courtroom debate Monday morning.
Following a lengthy hearing on Friday, it was generally understood that Slager would spend the weekend reviewing notes taken by investigators who questioned the former North Charleston officer days after he fatally shot Walter Scott. Slager currently awaits trial on federal charges of civil rights violations and misleading investigators about what actually happened the day Scott was killed after fleeing from a traffic stop.
Prosecutors claim that Slager — whether through omission or outright lies — provided a decidedly different account of the shooting than what was shown in an eyewitness video of the incident. Returning to court Monday, Slager was once again sworn in as federal prosecutors prepared to continue questioning him about his meeting with SLED agents in 2015. Slager’s response when asked if he had time to review the notes taken by investigators prior to his arrest: No.
“I told him he didn’t need to do it,” lead defense attorney Andy Savage told U.S. District Judge David Norton, adding that Slager would not be doing the government’s job for them.
This was a dramatic move on the part of the defense, drawing confused looks from prosecutors and admonishment from the judge. While Savage ultimately conceded that Slager had been instructed to review the notes taken by SLED agents during their 2015 meeting, the attorney argued that those were not Slager’s personal statements and he had never signed off on them. SLED agent Angela Peterson, who served as lead investigator on the case, has previously testified that she spent 45 minutes reviewing her notes with Slager following the meeting.
This newest courtroom tactic comes as the defense continues efforts to have the account of the shooting that Slager gave to investigators suppressed, alleging that he and his former attorney were lied to by SLED agents about the existence of an eyewitness video of the shooting. While Slager testified that he recalls his attorney specifically asking about video evidence and witnesses to the shooting, his ability to remember anything else from that day has apparently faded.
While questioned in court Monday about his meeting with Peterson, Slager repeatedly responded with variations on the same refrain — “That meeting was two years ago. I don’t recall what was said.”
In his final plea to the judge, Savage argued that investigators’ “conspiratorial effort” to mislead Slager and his former attorney undermined the justice system. Jared Fishman of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division closed by saying that the failure to inform Slager and his attorney about evidence does not turn a voluntary statement into an involuntary one.
“This defendant is willing to change his story if it is in his own benefit,” Fishman told the court.