Ex-officer's lawyers want statements axed from federal trial

AP News
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Posted: Feb 10, 2017 3:44 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A federal judge should not allow prosecutors to use statements that an ex-South Carolina police officer gave to investigators about shooting an unarmed driver who ran from a traffic stop because authorities lied about a video of the killing, defense lawyers say.

Michael Slager only spoke to state investigators three days after the April 2015 shooting on the advice of his first lawyer, who asked agents if there was any video of the shooting and was told there wasn't, defense lawyer Andy Savage wrote in a brief filed Friday.

Slager's federal trial for violating Walter Scott's civil rights by shooting and killing the black man after pulling him over for a broken brake light is set to begin in May. State prosecutors have promised a retrial on a murder charge after Slager's first trial in that court ended in a hung jury.

Before recommending he talk to State Law Enforcement Division agents, Slager's first lawyer, David Aylor, asked if there was any video or evidence from the coroner about where Scott was shot to guide his advice.

Prosecutors said a SLED agent gave a vague answer. But in an email to Savage, Aylor said she "wasn't vague. She lied."

Savage made a similar argument at Slager's state trial, but a judge ruled police are allowed to be deceptive with suspects and attorneys when they question them, as long as they inform them of their rights.

At last year's trial, prosecutors noted that Slager's statements were contradicted by the bystander video broadcast worldwide. The video showed Slager, who is white shoot several times at Scott's back as he ran away.

Federal prosecutors have not yet responded to Slager's motion.

Aylor stopped serving as Slager's lawyer after seeing the video. He had been hired through the Police Benevolent Association, which stopped representing Slager after his arrest. Slager sued the association for abandoning him and the case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

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