Prosecutors in the trial of a former white North Charleston, S.C., police officer charged with the murder of a black unarmed motorist rested their case on Wednesday.
As previously reported on The Root, Michael Slager, 34, is on trial for the April 2015 shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott. Scott was running from a traffic stop in North Charleston when Slager shot him five times in the back. In addition to the state murder charge, Slager faces three federal charges, including a civil rights violation.
This week the state rested its case against Slager after nine days of testimony from 32 witnesses, according to the Post and Courier. Immediately after the prosecution rested, attorneys for the defense asked the judge to dismiss the case, stating that the prosecution could not prove evidence of malice, which is a requirement of a murder charge.
The prosecution argued that shooting Scott in the back and allegedly lying to authorities after the shooting are evidence of Slager's malice, and the judge agreed. Circuit Judge Clifton Newman denied the defense’s motion for a directed verdict of acquittal and said that the state had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Slager killed Scott with malice.
“The evidence—if believed by the jury—indicates that the defendant shot the victim … in the back while running away,” Newman said. “The jury can infer an evil intent. The jury can infer hostility. The jury can infer malice.”
The opening moments of witness Feidin Santana’s video are shaky and blurry but appear to show some sort of struggle between Scott and Slager over Slager’s Taser. Those moments were not shown when the footage was played in court earlier, but according to the Post and Courier, the defense will likely use that as part of its case to show that Slager was defending himself when he shot Scott.
The prosecution rested its case after crime-scene recreation expert Bill Williams testified that Scott was 17 feet away from Slager when Slager fired the first shot and 34 feet 9 inches away when Slager fired the seventh shot.
Court is recessed until Monday, and the trial is expected to continue through the Thanksgiving holiday, with the defense spending at least four days on testimony.
Read more at the Charleston Post and Courier.