Experts present audio/video enhancements in ex-cop sentencing

Sentencing resumed Tuesday for Michael Slager.  He’s the former North Charleston police officer who shot a killed Water Scott following a traffic stop, chase, and physical fight.

He entered the federal courtroom in his jailhouse garb.  His hair was disheveled and he was wearing shackles.

After calling three witnesses Monday, the federal prosecutors said they were done presenting their case.

The defense called their first witness, Grant Fredericks.  He’s a forensic video analyst. He explained what he believes the cell phone video shows. He showed the court clips of the video magnified and frozen. He testified the men were moving “very fast” and were both on the ground.  He said they were changing position rapidly and characterized the interaction as a “fight”.  He also testified in audio from the video he could hear Slager say, “Let go of my Taser, or I will shoot you”.

In cross examination, prosecutors point out Fredericks can’t clarify determine what exactly was happening during the alleged “fight”.  They also questioned him about the direction Scott was moving when he was shot.  Fredericks confirmed Scott was moving away from Slager during the shooting.

The second witness for the defense was David Hallimore.  He is a former police officer who is also an audio analyst.  He analyzed the in car camera system audio, the dispatch audio, and the cell phone video of the shooting.  He testified Walter Scott can be heard saying, “’F’ the police”.   He is the initial expert to identify Slager saying, “Let go of my Taser, or I will shoot you”.

The prosecutor pointed out Hallimore didn’t hear either phrase on his first listening of the audio, and it took “messing with the audio” to hear that phrase. Hallimore also admitted Scott said “I on the ground”.

The defense brought FBI video analyst Anthony Imel back on the stand. On Monday, Imel testified about the distance between Scott and Slager during each of the gunshots, demonstrating how Scott moved away. Tuesday, the defense pressed him about how far away the cell phone video was captured, which was 136 feet. Defense attorney Andy Savage asked him to demonstrate that distance in the court room and pointed out that Imel would need to climb out of the window at the back of the courthouse to reach that distance.

During all cross examination, the prosecution continued to emphasize that all experts agree Scott was moving away from Slager at the time of the shooting.

The final witness of the day was forensic psychiatrist Dr. Charles Morgan. He studies how stress impacts cognition and memory. He testified that when a person is under extreme stress, their memory of a situation is unreliable.

Court will resume on Wednesday starting with the prosecution’s cross examination of Dr. Morgan.

Monday the state called Feidin Santana to the stand.  He is the 26-year-old immigrant from the Dominican Republic who recorded the now world-famous video of the shooting.  He said he was walking to work at a nearby barber shop when he saw Walter Scott running.  Santana described hearing the sound of the Taser and heard Scott moaning. In cross examination, Santana admitted he lost eye contact with the men at some part of the interaction.

SLED investigation Lt. Charles Ghent took the stand next to recount the statements Slager gave SLED following the shooting.  His key testimony is that Slager never mentioned the fight with Scott during the initial interviews that last more than two hours.  Slager also never initially claimed to being Tased, though on dispatch recording he said Scott tried to take his Taser. Finally Lt. Ghent testified Slager never said Scott was running away at the time of the shooting.

In cross examination, Defense attorney Andy Savage hammered problems with the SLED investigation including how evidence was handled.  He also pointed out investigations neither recorded Slager’s statements or had him write a formal state, a standard policy for the department.

In defense against the obstruction of justice charge, Savage pointed to SLED reports where Slager admitted to shooting Scott as he turned and took “10 to 12 steps”.  Slager also admitted to moving the Taser in initial interviews with SLED, telling them he picked up the weapon around where the two men had been fighting. He claimed he moved the weapon as a safety precaution.  Slager is facing that obstruction of justice charge for both moving the Taser and lying to investigations.  In reports by SLED, Slager had a hard time recalling all the facts, including the color of Walter Scott’s shirt, though he called the color out to dispatch during the chase.

Twice on the state the SLED agent told the defense the official SLED reports were inaccurate or contained errors.

 

The issue predominately being considered is the “Cross reference” or the underlying offense to the charge to which Slager already pleaded guilty.   The judge will determine if that underlying offense is murder in the second degree or manslaughter.

The shooting was “deliberate and calculated actions” according to prosecutors. Their opening statements were short.

Defense said “the court hasn’t heard the full story”.

 

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