Birds of a feather flock together. Or did they? They can’t recall exactly. If they did, it wasn’t improper, and it was definitely in self-defense.
Michael Slager, a former North Charleston, S.C., cop, is currently standing trial for the death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black motorist. While criminal charges against Slager ended in a mistrial last year, Slager has pleaded guilty to federal charges of deprivation of rights under the color of law. In doing so, Slager owned up to using excessive force in Scott’s death, admitting that he hadn’t shot Scott in self-defense as he originally claimed (cellphone video caught Slager shooting Scott in the back as he ran away).
But, Slager’s attorneys say, the ex-cop wasn’t lying. He was just stressed out. And they’re using Jeff Sessions’ “Swiss cheese” (read: trash) memory as evidence.
As the Washington Post reports, federal prosecutors are seeking an enhanced sentence against Slager for obstruction of justice—a punishment that they feel he deserves for lying his ass off for two years. But defense lawyers claimed in a federal court filing last week that Slager’s inconsistent accounts of Scott’s death were the result of intense pressure.
“A Swiss cheese memory is a symptom of stress, not an indicator of lying,” they wrote, including testimony from a medical expert.
Because this is 2017, Slager’s attorneys then cited Sessions’ conflicting and ever changing accounts of his contact with Russian agents as an example.
Here is their argument, from the Post:
“Unlike Slager, who had been in what he perceived a life and death struggle before he made his statements, Sessions had time to prepare for his Congressional testimony, yet still often got it wrong,” they wrote in their filing.
“Why? According to Sessions, he was working in chaotic conditions created by the Trump campaign,” they continued. “This was undoubtedly stressful, though not as stressful as having shot a man to death, or dealing with the aftermath of that, or facing the death penalty or life in prison. As Sessions made clear in his statement, a failure to recall, or an inaccurate recollection, does not a liar make.”
Do Slager’s attorneys really believe that Sessions was being honest in his congressional testimony? It’s possible. But citing Sessions is a calculated move meant to put the Department of Justice—whose prosecutors brought the federal charges against Slager—in an awkward position. Essentially, DOJ prosecutors can’t insist that Slager is a liar without implying, however indirectly, that their boss is probably one, too.
It’s transparent as hell—but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.
Here’s another section from the defense filing:
“Like Sessions, Slager never lied or misled anyone,” the defense attorneys’ filing reads. “Like Sessions, he answered the questions that were asked. When he had his memory refreshed, he added the refreshed recollection to his testimony. When he failed to remember certain items, it can be attributed to the stress or chaos of the event during which the memory should have been formed.”
Morally bankrupt courtroom arguments aren’t unique to 2017. Neither, unfortunately, is police brutality. Still, this particular example—a lying cop seeking a lighter sentence after killing an unarmed 50-year-old black man, a crime he now admits to, and citing a lying attorney general once deemed to be too racist to even be a federal judge—feels like a fresh twist on an old, prolonged horror.
Read more at the Washington Post.