Scott’s brain tissue to be sent to lab for independent analysis, judge says

Walter Scott

An attorney representing Michael Slager, the former North Charleston police officer accused of murder in the fatal shooting of Walter Scott last year, has been granted a request to have Scott’s brain matter transferred to a lab for independent analysis.

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman on Wednesday ordered the Medical University of South Carolina to transfer the brain tissue to NMS Labs in Pennsylvania.

MUSC must comply with the order within 10 days and send the tissue sample to the lab, according to court documents. The order also requires samples of the preservative solution used to keep the tissue and a control sample of that solution be sent.

NMS Labs will perform two toxicology tests before returning remaining evidence to MUSC.

Andy Savage, Slager’s attorney, filed the motion March 8 asking for samples of Scott’s hair and brain tissue, which were taken during an autopsy.

The March filing said the defense had not received any documentation indicating that the State Law Enforcement Division, which is probing Scott’s death, or a forensic pathologist had ever analyzed them.

The hair could be used for comparison with evidence found, Savage wrote.

The brain tissue could reveal toxicological findings. Slager’s defense already has pointed to blood tests showing traces of cocaine and alcohol as a possible explanation for Scott’s behavior during the confrontation with Slager.

Scott, 50, ran from a traffic stop in a parking lot of Advance Auto Parts near the Craig Road intersection around 9:30 a.m. on April 4, 2015. Slager, 33, had spotted a broken middle brake light on Scott’s 1990 Mercedes-Benz, which was traveling on Remount Road.

He couldn’t give clear answers about whether he owned the car and didn’t have the proper paperwork. A passenger, Pierre Fulton, was sitting next to Scott.

After a few minutes, as Slager checked on Scott’s identity, Scott got out and started running. By that time, Slager did not yet know that Scott had an active arrest warrant for failure to pay child support.

During the foot chase, Scott led Slager into a vacant, grassy lot off Craig Road. Slager shouted, “Taser, Taser, Taser,” and fired his stun gun to stop Scott. The trigger on the officer’s Taser was pulled six times during a 67-second span. Both the Taser cartridges that fire darts and the shock-delivering prongs on the gun’s barrel were used.

A bystander’s video showed the two struggling on the ground, but reports differ about who had the upper hand. Slager’s attorneys said Scott beat the officer and grabbed his Taser.

As the Taser fell to the ground, Scott started running again. Slager pulled his pistol and fired eight bullets, five of which hit Scott. His lawyers have said Slager still saw Scott as a threat when he opened fire.

After the video surfaced publicly three days later, the officer was arrested on a murder charge.

Slager, now 34, posted $500,000 bail on Jan. 4 and was released from jail. His trial is scheduled to start Oct. 31.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.