Michael Slager seeking to overturn sentence in fatal shooting of Walter Scott citing ineffectiveness of lawyers

Michael Slager's attorneys have filed the opening brief in his appeal case.
Michael Slager's attorneys have filed the opening brief in his appeal case.(Pool Video)
Updated: May. 21, 2020 at 3:47 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A former North Charleston police officer convicted in connection to a fatal shooting of a man is seeking to overturn his sentence and conviction claiming his lawyers were ineffective during certain portions of his trial.

According to court documents, Michael Slager filed a motion to vacate his conviction and sentence he received involving the fatal April 2015 shooting of Walter Scott which was captured on video.

The former police officer pleaded guilty to the federal charge of violating Scott’s civil rights and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear his case after Slager’s lawyers submitted a petition.

Slager’s motion to vacate his sentence, which was filed on Wednesday, lists a number of reasons why he believes his conviction should be overturned which center around his claim that his lawyers were ineffective.

Specifically, Slager says his counsel were “constitutionally ineffective” when it came to plea negotiations and advising him on the terms which he should plead guilty.

“Counsel failed to meaningfully pursue a 11(c)(1)(c) plea agreement with the Government, relied on out-of-court ex-parte statements by the sentencing Judge to reject/terminate potentially fruitful and favorable plea negotiations, and advised the Defendant to decline further pursuit of a negotiated plea agreement,” Slager said in the motion.

According to Slager, his lawyers were also ineffective at sentencing by failing to present critical witness testimony including expert testimony regarding the use-of-force and other witnesses who who were available to the defense but not presented at sentencing.

Additionally, Slager said his lawyers were ineffective in advising him to sign the plea agreement which he claims “conceded critical facts adverse” to him.

He also asserts that the lawyers in charge of his appeal to a higher court were ineffective as well and did not raise “meritorious issues” which would have have helped his petition.

Slager was indicted in May 2016 by a federal grand jury that alleged Slager, “while acting under the color of law as an officer with the North Charleston Police Department, shot [and killed] Walter Scott without legal justification, willfully depriving him of the be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer.”

Slager was also tried on a charge of murder in state court, but that trial resulted in a hung jury and mistrial.

Slager then entered a global plea agreement with federal and state prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty in federal court to one count of depriving Scott of his civil rights under color of law. In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed to drop remaining counts in the grand jury’s indictment and South Carolina agreed not to retry Slager and dismissed the murder charge.

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