Police Officer Who Killed Walter Scott Wants Change of Venue for Trial

Attorneys for Michael Slager believe that there is no way their client can get a fair and unbiased trial in Charleston County, S.C.

Michael Slager 
Michael Slager  Charleston County (S.C.) Detention Center via Getty Images

The former North Charleston, S.C., police officer charged in the death of a black motorist is asking the court for a change of venue in his state trial.

The Charleston Post and Courier reports that attorneys for Michael Slager filed a motion Tuesday asking the court to move Slager’s state murder trial out of Charleston. Slager is accused of fatally shooting Walter Scott, 50, in the back after Scott ran from a traffic stop on April 4, 2015.

In addition to the state murder charge, Slager is facing three federal counts, including a civil rights violation and lying to authorities about the threat Scott posed. The federal trial will begin in 2017.

Three days after Slager’s shooting of Scott, a video of the shooting taken by bystander Feidin Santana surfaced. The video shows Slager and Scott struggling on the ground.

Andy Savage, the lead attorney for the former police officer, said in his motion that Santana’s video has created a pervasive bias against his client in the Charleston area. The motion includes an affidavit that says a survey of 608 Charleston County adults conducted Sept. 16-18 found that 91 percent had knowledge of the Slager case, and 85 percent had seen the video.

Savage called the bystander video “the main source of the false and incomplete narrative that permeates this community.” He said that the false narrative has been reinforced by the $6.5 million civil settlement that Scott’s family received in October 2015. He said the settlement is seen as confirming Slager’s guilt.

Neither Savage nor Slager has indicated where the trial should be moved to.

Savage also noted that the trial of Dylann Roof, accused of a June 2015 racially motivated shooting in Charleston that left nine black churchgoers dead, will be happening in a federal courthouse across the street. He said that jurors and witnesses for the Slager trial would have to get through reporters, protesters and “attention seekers,” creating “a media circus.”

“The media has ‘knitted’ Slager and Roof together such that to the [uninformed], lines blur between the self-declared racist deeds of Roof and the line-of-duty actions of Slager,” Savage said.

A hearing for the change-of-venue filing is scheduled for Friday.

Read more at the Charleston Post and Courier.

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