The South Carolina prosecutor who tried the now former North Charleston police officer responsible for shooting and killing the 50-year-old black unarmed motorist Walter Scott said in a pretrial hearing last year that Michael Slager’s shooting of Scott was a “close call” between manslaughter and murder, but that a case could be made for either criminal charge.
The Charleston Post and Courier obtained a court transcript that was unsealed Tuesday and revealed testimony that 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson gave during closed-door testimony at a pretrial hearing in October.
Wilson said in her testimony, “My impression was that it was a close call. I felt like voluntary manslaughter might be a better fit, but I also thought that there certainly could be a case made for malice.”
Malice is a necessary component to proving a murder case.
As previously reported on The Root, Slager was charged with shooting and killing Scott in April 2015 after a traffic stop for a broken taillight. Scott ran from the stop, and the two got into a scuffle. Slager claimed that Scott had grabbed his Taser, which prompted him to shoot Scott, but video footage captured by a bystander with a cellphone revealed that Scott had actually run away from Slager. Slager fired eight shots at Scott as he ran; five of those shots hit Scott in the back.
Slager’s trial began in November and ended in a mistrial in December when the jury could not decide between voluntary manslaughter and murder. Prosecutors insisted that they would try Slager again, and a retrial was scheduled for March of this year. That retrial was postponed until August at the request of the defense because of concerns about the availability of a key witness.
A federal trial in which Slager was charged with violating Scott’s civil rights had been scheduled to begin this past May, but Slager took a plea deal early that month. In exchange for pleading guilty to violating Scott’s civil rights under color of law, the state murder charge against Slager was dropped.
Now U.S. District Judge David Norton is tasked with determining what crime Slager committed in violating Scott’s civil rights. The Post and Courier reports that while the options include involuntary and voluntary manslaughter, federal prosecutors are expected to argue in favor of second-degree murder.
Slager could face less than five years to up to about 20 years in prison.
Read more at the Charleston Post and Courier.