Lawyers for ex-police officer charged in shooting death file change of venue motion

Published: Oct. 18, 2016 at 9:34 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2016 at 9:54 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Lawyers for the former North Charleston police officer facing a murder charge in the shooting death of a motorist want his trial moved out of the area.

Michael Slager is charged in the shooting death of Walter Scott on April 4, 2015.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Slager's attorneys filed a motion for a change of venue. In the motion, they cite a widely-seen video shot by the bystander that captured the shooting of Scott, and the fact that the City of North Charleston settled a lawsuit with Scott's family for $6.5 million.

The video was released on April 7, three days after the shooting incident, the same day Slager was arrested.

Attorneys argue viewers of the bystander video "could not be reasonably expected to shut from sight," because they video, they say, contains "profoundly inculpatory information out of context and in a manner guaranteed to sear prejudice into the brains of the viewers." The motion also states the video contains footage showing the fight between Slager and Scott, and states, "as the combatants rise from the ground fight, Slager draws his handgun and shoots Scott as he breaks away from Slager."

"The video of the fight is blurry and indistinct, while the video of the shooting itself is clear," the motion states. "As a result, the [bystander] video is rarely, if ever, shown in its entirety. Instead, the last eight seconds of the video depicting the shooting is shown absent the context of the altercation."

"Add to that the misperception of the civil settlement by most of the public, and the unwillingness of the City [of North Charleston] to share any rationale for settling, other than a desire to keep public order, and you have a toxic stew of half-truths, misperceptions and false narratives in which this venire has been steeping since April 7, 2015," the motion states.

The defense argues those factors lead to the public perception that Slager was at fault.

The motion also includes an affidavit from the owner of a research company who conducted telephone surveys between Sept. 16 and Sept. 18 involving the trial and information people have seen and heard about the case. The data revealed 91 percent of those surveyed had seen, read or heard about the Slager case and 85 percent said they had seen the video, the affidavit states.

Slager's trial set to begin at end of the month in Charleston County.

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