CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – A federal judge has denied a motion to keep a cellphone video of a white former police officer shooting an unarmed black motorist to death out of sight of the jury in the ex-officer’s upcoming trial.
Defense attorneys for Michael Slager asked U.S. District Judge David Norton to exclude the video as evidence, arguing that it only shows the actual shooting and not what they contend are the critical moments when the North Charleston police officer struggled with motorist Walter Scott.
Slager has always maintained that after Scott ran from a routine traffic stop in April 2015, the two men had a physical confrontation during which the motorist grabbed the officer’s stun gun. The cellphone video, recorded by a passerby, begins after that, the defense says, and is therefore prejudicial.
The video shows Slater shooting Scott five times in the back as the motorist runs away.
“The relevant perspective is the officer’s perspective,” defense attorney Donald McCune told Norton during an hour-long hearing Friday morning.
But U.S. Attorney Jared Fishman responded by arguing the video is relevant because it shows the moment Slager used deadly force on Scott.
“The video unambiguously shows the defendant shooting a man as he ran away,” Fishman said. “It allows the jury to see clearly Scott did not have a Taser in his hand at the moment he was shot.”
Judge Norton ultimately ruled that not only can prosecutors play the video for the jury, but that can show it in slow motion if they deem it appropriate.
Turning to the defense, Norton added, “You don’t get to try their case, and they don’t get to try yours.”
The judge also issued a decorum order Friday, spelling out the grounds rules for the lawyers, the public and the media during Slager’s upcoming federal trial.
He is scheduled to be tried in May in federal court on charges he violated Scott’s civil rights during the incident. Slager also faces a retrial, in August, on state murder charges. His first trial ended in a mistrial last fall.