Slager defense invites audiovisual experts to question circumstances leading to shooting of Walter Scott

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Lead defense attorney Andy Savage during Slager's initial trial, which resulted in a hung jury - GRACE BEAHM/POST AND COURIER
  • Grace Beahm/Post and Courier
  • Lead defense attorney Andy Savage during Slager's initial trial, which resulted in a hung jury
Defense attorneys for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager invited video and audio analysts to the witness stand Tuesday morning.

Monday's sentencing hearing resurfaced questions about the location of Slager's stun gun seconds before he shot 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back five times in a case that has circulated as evidence of excessive use of force against minorities. This re-opened a back-and-forth about the nature of Scott and Slager's interactions.

Tuesday's session began at 10:37 a.m. in downtown Charleston. The federal prosecution rested its case before announcing their plans to invite Walter Scott's son, a high school student, to the stand Wednesday morning.

Among new revelations during this week's sentencing hearings is the defense witnesses' claims that Walter Scott said, "Fuck the police," while allegedly struggling on the ground with Slager, now 36.

Forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks took the stand first on behalf of the defense. He claims to have also heard Slager warn Scott, "Let go of my Taser or I'll shoot you."

“There’s clearly a physical altercation from the visual images, and that clearly goes along with the audio that indicates that there’s a fight occurring on the ground,”  Fredericks said.

Prosecutors have maintained no "altercation" occurred as they define it: punching, kicking, or assault.

When cross-examined by Department of Justice prosecutor Jared Fishman, Fredericks agreed that Scott was escaping the scene when he was shot to death.

“For each and every shot he (Walter Scott) was moving away from the defendant (Michael Slager),” Fredericks agreed. “The defendant walks over, drops the Taser on the ground somewhere near Mr. Scott, and picks it back up.”

David Hallimore, a forensic audio analyst from Houston, Texas, said he reviewed audio from Slager's in-car camera, his dispatch radio, and from eyewitness Feidin Santana's cell phone footage.

Hallimore said he used professional headphones and digital filtrations to make out the alleged "fuck the police" remark from Slager's body microphone. He agreed that this was his "interpretation" of the audio during cross-examination by Fishman.

Other witnesses presented by the defense include Eugenio Liscio, a Toronto-based 3D forensic analyst who proposed theories about what happened to Slager's stun gun using a 3D model. Also called to the stand was Dr. Charles Morgan, a forensic psychiatrist who studies how stress affects the brain.

“Errors are the rule (in recalling stressful events),” Dr. Morgan said. “About 80 percent of the people we evaluate exhibit errors in memory."

Prosecutors had tried to call into question Slager's varying versions of what precisely led to him shooting Scott.

Yesterday, a lieutenant with SLED confirmed that there may have been inaccuracies in an executive summary detailing a meeting the state agency had with Slager three days after the 2015 shooting. The meeting was not recorded in any way.

“We always videoed and followed a protocol,” Morgan said of his research. “I can’t speak for SLED, I don’t work with them.”

The experts are an attempt by the defense to shed doubt on the circumstances leading to the shooting in what the court called an "objectively unreasonable" use of deadly force in Slager's plea agreement.

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