Judge denies several defense motions in Slager trial, opening statements set for Thursday

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A judge denied requests Wednesday to drop the murder charge against the former North Charleston police officer accused in the shooting death of a motorist and to change venue for the trial.

Michael Slager is charged in the death of Walter Scott, who Slager pulled on April 4, 2015, for a broken taillight.

Defense attorney Andy Savage requested the trial be moved to Pickens County because of media saturation in the Charleston area.

Still to be decided is whether a cell-phone video of the shooting taken by a witness will be allowed in the trial. The defense does not want it shown because it does not show Slager's point of view and is unfair in that it portrays Slager as having the intent to kill, which they say was not so.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the judge decided that point will be addressed when it is introduced into the trial.

The judge first heard the defense's request for the murder charge to be dropped based on double jeopardy. Slager's attorneys claimed state and federal authorities worked together to try to convict Slager, and his attorneys said he cannot be tried twice for the same crime.

Judge Clifton Newman denied the motion, saying Slager has been afforded all the due process afforded by the laws of South Carolina. And he ruled that to dismiss the indictment based on grounds of double jeopardy, he would have to "overrule well-established doctrine."

In arguing for a change of venue, Savage called witness Alicia Ward to the stand, who testified the media has not shown the entire video of the shooting incident. Ward said one big issue is every time there is a police shooting, many media outlets bring up the Scott shooting.

Ward, a social media researcher and tracker and public relations expert, was hired by the defense team.

Prosecutors maintained there is a media presence in smaller counties.

The judge also denied a defense request to sequester witnesses who would testify in the trial.

A judge convened a motions hearing Wednesday afternoon after the jury was selected for the state trial against Slager.

The motions hearing was originally expected to begin Wednesday morning, but attorneys for Slager asked for more time late Tuesday afternoon to review the list of potential jurors and the judge granted that request. Slager was in court Tuesday to watch the proceedings.

Attorneys agreed on 12 jurors and six alternates. The jury is composed of six white men, five white women and one black man. In the alternate group are two white men, one white woman, one Hispanic woman and two black women.

One of the primary jurors was abruptly excused shortly after jury selection was completed because he was a Merchant Marine and had to work. A new juror was selected in his place.

Opening statements are expected Thursday.

Seventy-five potential jurors were selected Tuesday for the trial from a pool of 129. Prosecutors and defense attorneys then used "strikes" to rule out individual jurors Wednesday morning. The state had five strikes and the defense had 10.

During jury selection, the prosecution accused the defense of racial motivation while striking jurors. Seven of the nine strikes made by the defense were minorities. The defense proceeded to list actual reasons for striking each of those jurors and the prosecution dropped the legal challenge.

On Tuesday, the solicitor's office has indicated that Feidin Santana, who recorded video of the shooting, would be called, which suggests testimony will begin this week. Santana's attorney was also subpoenaed regarding seven items but it is not known what those items were. The judge issued a protection order so proprietary information would only be revealed during the trial in any potential cross-examination.

Authorities say Michael Slager pulled Walter Scott over for a broken taillight. Scott was shot as he ran, authorities say. Days later, cellphone video of the incident put worldwide attention on the case.

Slager pleaded not guilty to a murder charge, saying he shot Scott in self-defense after Scott tried to grab his Taser.

Copyright 2016 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.