CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - The retrial of former police officer Michael Slager has been pushed back from March 1 to Aug. 28 to accommodate the schedules of expert witnesses for the defense.
Slager, who is white, is charged with murder in the April 4, 2015, shooting death of an unarmed black man who fled from a routine traffic stop.
A cellphone video that surfaced after the incident appears to show the North Charleston police officer shooting Walter Scott as the motorist ran away from him. Slager maintains that there was a hand-to-hand struggle between the two men before the person who shot the video happened on the scene, and that Scott got hold of Slager's Taser.
Slager says at that point he feared for his life and his use of deadly force was warranted.
In December, Circuit Judge Clifton Newman declared a mistrial in Slager's first trial after jurors couldn't come to a unanimous verdict on the murder charge or a lesser charge of manslaughter.
Slager's retrial in state court was delayed Tuesday after defense attorney Andy Savage told Judge Newman that defense expert witnesses were not available to testify in March.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson argued to keep the trial on schedule, explaining that Scott's family is anxious for a resolution of the case.
But Savage countered by arguing that the case to date "has not been about a search for the truth rather a search for the most expedient way to imprison Mr. Slager."
In the end, Newman granted the defense request for a delay.
Slager also faces a federal trial on charges that he violated Scott's civil rights. That trial is scheduled to begin on May 1, but the status of that case grew murky Tuesday after Solicitor Wilson told reporters she was shocked by an "off the cuff" remark she heard that the Trump administration might consider dropping the civil rights charges.
Although Wilson said she questions the credibility of the remark, she told reporters she had to pay attention to what people are saying within the administration.
Savage said he has no idea what the solicitor was talking about.
Speaking of the federal trial, Savage said he and his client have been preparing in earnest for the civil rights trial ever since the state trial ended the.
"The elements of the offenses charged in federal court are different than the elements of the charge in state court so our approach will be amended to meet the federal government’s allegations," the attorney said. "We have continued our investigation of the incident and as the result of obtaining new information provided by previously unknown parties we have developed information that we were not aware of during the state trial.
"We believe that we now have evidence that will shed light on the behavior of Mr. Scott and the reason why he tried to escape including resisting arrest," Savage said. "We are optimistic that this recent discovery will finally lead to finding justice for Mr. Slager in either jurisdiction. It looks like our next opportunity will be in federal court and we look forward to it. The advantage of federal court if there is one is that that they have rules that govern procedure, something sorely lacking in our state system."
Judge Newman did not address the fate of the federal case on Tuesday, but did say that if the federal trial is pushed back, he might move up the date of the state trial.
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