Friends, family of Walter Scott testify in fourth day of Slager trial

VIDEO: Friends, family of Walter Scott testify in fourth day of Slager trial
Michael Slager speaks to defense attorney Andy Savage in court on Monday. (Source: AP Pool/File)
Michael Slager speaks to defense attorney Andy Savage in court on Monday. (Source: AP Pool/File)
Attorney Andy Savage, an attorney working for Michael Slager, speaks with Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson on Wednesday. (Source: AP Pool/File)
Attorney Andy Savage, an attorney working for Michael Slager, speaks with Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson on Wednesday. (Source: AP Pool/File)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Testimony wrapped up Thursday afternoon in the fourth day of the trial of a former North Charleston police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a motorist last year.

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

Witnesses who took the stand Thursday included police officers, Walter Scott's son, and a co-worker of his who was actually in the car with Scott when they were pulled over before Scott was fatally shot.

Scott's mother broke down in court, crying, "Hallelujah." She was helped by court bailiffs after she left the witness stand.

The jury also watched and listened to dash cam video that included what sounds like Slager shouting, "Taser."

Scott's son, Walter Scott II, testified that he had lived with his father in North Charleston and saw him the day of his death.

A neighbor, Arthur Heyward, told prosecutors he had owned the Mercedes Scott was driving when he was pulled over.

Scott's fiancee, Charlotte Jones, described Scott as a "loving and kind person."

The defense contends that Slager and Scott fought over the officer's Taser before Scott ran and was shot in the back, an encounter that a bystander recorded on a cellphone. Jones testified that she never knew Scott to have been in a fight. She says "he was not that kind of person."

She also testified that Scott never mentioned to her that he was worried about being behind in child support payments. Scott's relatives have said that he may have tried to run away because he was worried he would be jailed for missing payments.

Pierre Fulton, the man who was riding in the front passenger seat with Scott at the time of the traffic stop, said he has no idea why Scott tried to run away after Slager pulled him over. Fulton testified that Scott gave the officer his license and stepped out of the car. He said Scott was told to get back in again, and Scott did, but Fulton said "the next thing you know he was out the door."

Fulton testified that a short time later he heard gunshots. Slager fired eight times as Scott was running away. Asked by prosecutor Scarlett Wilson why Scott fled, Fulton replied: "That's a question I would like to ask him, Unfortunately, I can't. He was murdered."

Fulton repeated the statement at least three times while on the stand. The last time came when he was under cross-examination by defense attorney Andy Savage.

"Sir, I have nothing against officers who do their job, just do your job," Fulton said. "I have a job to do when I'm working, I do my job. You do your job, it's all good. You might protect my mother one day, you might protect my little sister, you might protect somebody that I know. But somebody's running from you, you don't shoot them in the back."

At one point, Wilson reported to the judge one of the jurors works with a second cousin of Scott, but that the juror may not be aware of it. Judge Clifton Newman said he would address the issue at a later time.

Slager faces 30 years to life if convicted of murder in the April 2015 shooting death of 50-year-old Scott as Scott fled a traffic stop in North Charleston.

Attorneys deliver opening statements at start of day

Prosecutors and defense attorneys gave opening statements Thursday morning before a panel of 11 white jurors and one black juror.

During opening statements, Wilson said Slager may have been provoked by Scott if Scott wrestled his Taser away, but that Slager wasn't justified in shooting Scott eight times as he ran from the officer. Wilson told the jury what Slager did was "flat out wrong," and that he lied because he didn't know he was being videotaped on a cell phone.

"His first instinct after those shots were fired and he cuffs a dead Walter Scott is to to stage the scene," Wilson said.

But defense attorneys say Slager was forced into action when Scott ran from him during a traffic stop. Savage told the jury in opening statements on Thursday that Slager was alone on patrol in the "No. 1 crime-ridden area" in North Charleston when he stopped Scott for a non-functioning tail light. He says that would not have been a big deal, but Scott escalated things by trying to run away.

Savage told the jury evidence will show Scott and Slager fought over Slager's Taser and Scott grabbed it, forcing the former cop to defend himself.

"The solicitor with all the king's horses and all the king's men would speculate that the DNA got on the Taser before Slager put the Taser on Mr. Scott," Savage said.

Savage said authorities presume Scott ran because he hadn't paid child support, but that they don't know that for sure.

At some point, Feiden Santana, the man who shot the controversial cell phone video of the incident, will also testify.

Defense motions denied Wednesday

Newman denied defense motions Wednesday in a hearing after the jury had been selected. Among the motions he rejected were requests to drop the murder charge against Slager 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.

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."

He also denied a request for a change of venue from the defense, who argued the trial should be moved to Pickens County in the Upstate because of media saturation in the Charleston area.

Newman denied a request to sequester witnesses who would testify in the trial.

However, a motion to prevent cellphone video of the shooting from being shown in court was not decided on. The defense calls the footage unfairly prejudicial and says the video doesn't show Slager's perspective and is incomplete. The judge ruled he would make a decision on whether to allow the video once it is time for it to be introduced during the trial.

Wednesday began with the selection of 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of 75.

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.

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.