By ELLEN ROBINSON
CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – The prosecution rested its case on Wednesday in the trial of a white South Carolina police officer accused of murdering an unarmed black motorist during a 2015 traffic stop.
Former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager, who turned 35 on Monday, is charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Walter Scott following a traffic stop on April 4, 2015.
Slager pulled Scott over for a broken taillight, and during the stop, Scott fled the scene on foot. Moments later — moments now at the heart of the trial — Slager fired on Scott, killing him. A passerby filmed the shooting on his cell phone.
The video shows Slager firing on a fleeing Scott, who is several feet from the officer as five bullets hit him in the back. Slager has maintained the two men struggled before the passerby happened onto the scene and that during the altercation, Scott grabbed the officer’s stun gun.
The prosecution called 32 witnesses over nine days of testimony, pressing its case that Slager acted with malice in shooting Scott.
On Wednesday the jury heard from two prosecution witnesses, Bill Williams and Agent James Tallon of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
Williams was admitted as an expert in computer technology and scene analysis and recreation.
Much of his testimony revolved around a scenario he created for what might have occurred in the moments after a running Scott disappeared from the view of Slager’s dash cam video and the scenes captured on the cell phone, and his depiction of the shooting itself.
During cross-examination, the defense sought to impeach at least some of Williams’ conclusions, arguing that in stretching some of the images, objects and individuals appear farther apart than they actually were.
Williams said such distortions would be inadvertent, but certainly possible.
On Wednesday afternoon, Judge Clifton Newman denied a defense motion for dismissal on the grounds the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, hold that “the evidence, if believed by the jury, indicates that the defendant shot the victim in the back while running away.”
“The jury can infer an evil intent. The can infer hostility. The jury can infer malice,” Newman said.
The defense then called its first witness, audio expert David Hallimore who analyzed enhanced audio both from the cell phone video and Slager’s body microphone.
In the case of the body microphone, Hallimore said it is difficult to make out some of what was said because Slager was chasing Scott.
The defense case is expected to last into next week and could extend beyond a Thanksgiving recess. Defense attorney Andy Savage has argued that Slager acted in self-defense.
If convicted, Slager faces 30 years to life in prison.