CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Potential jurors in the murder trial of a white former police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black motorist will be extensively questioned on their views about race and police conduct before being seated in the case.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman said Tuesday the jury pool will be sent a general questionnaire about race relations and police conduct with a jury summons. They will then fill out a more specific questionnaire asking what they know about the Walter Scott case when they get to the courthouse.
Defense attorney Andy Savage had made a motion asking that jurors be sent the questionnaires to express thoughts on race and police conduct without fear of public embarrassment or reprisal.
The judge asked the prosecutor and defense attorneys to develop the questionnaires and submit them to the court.
Former North Charleston officer Michael Slager, 33, stands trial in October for murder and faces 30 years to life if convicted in the shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott.
Scott was shot running from a traffic stop in April, 2015 in a shooting captured on cellphone video. The incident reignited the national debate over the treatment of blacks by white officers.
Newman said court officials will be able to adequately handle security for the high-profile trial.
"Our concern would be the atmosphere in which Mr. Slager would be tried," Savage told the judge in asking if he had any concerns.
Newman also ordered that the state provide the defense with contact and other personal information from four witnesses who have given statements.
Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson said that there was no reason social security, immigration numbers and birthdates be provided. Newman ordered the defense not to reveal such information to anyone else.
He also ordered that pictures from a small camera found in Scott's car be provided to the defense. Wilson said the shooting occurred some distance from the vehicle and there was a question whether the camera was camera scene evidence to which the defense was entitled.
Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com