Attorneys: Slager statements should be inadmissible in federal trial

Attorneys: Slager statements should be inadmissible in federal trial
Michael Slager in state court last year. (Source: Pool)
Walter Scott. (Source: Facebook)
Walter Scott. (Source: Facebook)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The defense team of the former North Charleston police officer facing federal charges in the death of a motorist filed a motion to suppress statements the officer made as the shooting was being investigated.

Slager, 35, was accused in the shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott, who fled from a traffic stop on April 4, 2015.

Slager is charged in U.S. District Court with violating Scott's rights under the color of law, lying to investigators and using a firearm in a violent crime.

The motion argues statements Slager made three days after the shooting to SLED agents during the investigation should be excluded on the basis of "outrageous governmental conduct" that denied Slager his right of due process.

Attorneys for Slager argue SLED agents lied to the attorney appointed to Slager by the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, which provided initial legal representation.

That attorney, David Aylor, arranged an interview with his client by agents of the State Law Enforcement Division which investigated the shooting, the motion states. Prior to the interview, Aylor asked whether SLED agents "had any information to help guide his advice to Slager, such as knowledge of the existence of any video of the event or information from the Coroner's office about the location of Scott's wounds," the motion states.

"Rather than refusing to provide any information, the SLED agents intentionally misled Aylor by lying - upon inquiry, they denied that they were in possession of a video of the event, and they failed to mention there was a SLED agent present at the autopsy," the motion states.

Slager's attorneys say SLED was provided a copy of a cell phone video that showed the shooting and its immediate aftermath the night before the meeting in which SLED agents denied having that video, and say SLED shared the video with prosecutors the night before the meeting as well.

Slager's attorneys argue that Aylor advised Slager to sign waivers of Miranda rights and to submit to interrogation on two separate occasions. After the second interview, Slager and Aylor were shown a portion of the bystander video, the motion states.

After viewing the video, Aylor dropped Slager as a client and the PBA told Slager they would no longer represent him, either, the motion states.

"While law enforcement uses lies and deceit as a matter of course when interrogating suspects, in this matter SLED agents actively worked to deceive the attorney who represented an individual under investigation," the motion states.

Motion: 'Lies of law enforcement' made legal representation ineffective

Slager's attorneys argue that Aylor "mistakenly but understandably relied on the integrity of the SLED agents," who they say "actively deceived Aylor, inducing him to give faulty advice to Slager," because the inquiry Aylor made of investigators prior to advising Slager to speak with them "was met with deceit."

"Had SLED agents told the truth, Slager would not have made a statement until Aylor gathered more information," the motion states. "More importantly, Slager was denied effective representation of counsel, a fundamental constitutional right, by the government's deceit."

Slager's attorneys say the government's "outrageous conduct" was not lying to or deceiving Slager, but in lying to and deceiving the attorney they knew represented Slager, which caused advice the attorney gave him to be "ineffective."

The motion also states Slager had been told by his attorney that he had to give a statement and that Slager believed he was in custody and "would be held in custody until he had given a statement." He was released after giving the first statement, but was arrested when he returned that afternoon and taken across the street to the Charleston County Detention Center where was held without bond for nine months, the motion states.

"Because Slager's PBA counsel was misled by SLED agents who had possession of the video before the first interrogation and lied to Slager's counsel upon inquiry; because Slager's counsel did no other investigation other than inquiries of SLED before telling Slager he had to give a statement; because Slager felt compelled to give a statement on his attorney's uninformed advice; because Slager was held in a room with two armed officers before and during the statement; and because of the proximity of the Charleston County Detention Center, Slager's statements on April 7, 2015, must be suppressed," the motion states.

Federal trial set to begin in May

Slager said he fatally shot Scott after they wound up in a scuffle during which Scott grabbed Slager's stun gun and attempted to use it on him.

Slager would face up to life in prison if convicted on the civil rights count. The federal trial is scheduled to begin on May 1.

A state murder trial against him ended in a mistrial in December when jurors told Judge Clifton Newman they could not come to a unanimous decision of whether Slager was not guilty by reason of self-defense, or guilty of either murder or an alternate charge of voluntary manslaughter.

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