Testimony wraps for week in Michael Slager trial; Victim's brother takes stand
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Testimony in the trial of the former North Charleston police officer charged in the shooting death of the driver who fled a traffic stop has wrapped up for the week.
Michael Slager is charged with murder in the April 4, 2015, death of 50-year-old Walter Scott.
Scott's brother, Anthony, took the stand in the officer's trial Thursday and said he last spoke to his brother the Wednesday before the shooting. On April 4, 2015, Walter Scott was pulled over by Michael Slager. Slager, who is charged with murder in Scott's shooting death, claims Scott grabbed Slager's Taser during a struggle, forcing Slager to shoot.
Anthony Scott told the jury he was first alerted to something being wrong when his mother called him the morning of the shooting and asked him to go check on his brother.
Scott said his mother told him something had happened with a Taser.
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"When I arrived at the scene and saw police tape around the car I knew something was wrong," Scott said.
He said a man showed him a snapshot of the shooting and took him to a restaurant where he met Feidin Santana, the passerby who recorded the incident on his cellphone. Santana, Scott said, did not want to give up the video, but after a release from the North Charleston Police Department, Santana gave the video to Scott who then took it to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
Earlier, Slager's attorneys argued the state botched the investigation. The lead crime scene investigator was back on the stand Thursday.
Defense attorney Andy Savage asked former State Law Enforcement Division agent Almon Brown why agents didn't collect certain evidence from the scene of the shooting. That included Slager's duty belt from his uniform.
Brown also said that trying to get fingerprints from Slager's Taser wasn't part of the crime lab's protocol.
When asked by Chief Deputy Solicitor Bruce Durant what he Brown failed to do, Brown responded, "nothing."
Brown told Durant he believed there was no "nefarious intent" in not taking fingerprints or swabbing the entire Taser. Brown also testified that there was no doubt that Slager and Walter Scott fought before the shooting, but that nowhere in his notes does it mention that Slager got tased.
Wednesday, a forensic pathologist went over every detail of the wounds on Scott's body. Dr. Lee Tormos said his wounds were consistent with those depicted on a cellphone video of the shooting that was distributed widely and stunned the nation.
In court, Tormos demonstrated where the bullets hit Walter Scott on his body. She testified Scott most likely was standing up when he was shot, and that the shots were fired from at least three feet away and possibly as far as 30 feet from his body.
The prosecutor asked her if she determined the exact cause of Scott's death.
"I determined the cause of death to be gunshot wounds to the torso," Tormos said. "The most fatal wound was the gunshot wound to the back of the right chest."
Tormos also said the autopsy revealed traces of a combination of cocaine and alcohol in Scott's body.
She also said there was one Taser barb in Scott's left chest but no other puncture wounds.
Court proceedings slowed Wednesday afternoon when, with the jury out of the courtroom, attorneys argued for nearly an hour over the testimony of a prosecution witness.
Cocaine was found in Scott's blood in an autopsy, and forensic toxicologist Demetra Garvin interpreted the lab results. The prosecution wanted the defense instructed not to question whether Scott was a chronic cocaine user in cross-examination.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman asked Garvin if she could conclude Scott was a chronic user based on the autopsy result, his discharge from a job for drugs two years ago, and a marijuana arrest nearly three decades before that.
She said she could not, and the judge agreed that the defense could not raise the issue.
Garvin told the jury that Scott could have taken the cocaine anywhere from hours to perhaps days before the shooting.
Slager faces 30 years to life if convicted of murder in the case.
Court will not be in session on Friday because of Veterans Day.
Copyright 2016 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.