Solicitor seeks to protect witnesses in Slager case

Former North Charleston Police officer Michael Slager

Detailed personal information of prosecution witnesses in the Michael Slager murder trial should not be made available to his defense team, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said in court papers filed Friday.

Slager, a former North Charleston police officer, is charged with killing Walter Scott, 50. Scott was a motorist who fled from an April 4, 2015, traffic stop and fought with Slager before the policeman shot him five times as he ran away, authorities said.

Wilson said that the prosecution provided the defense with copies of witness written statements and their identities. But it should not be required by a judge to provide other identifying information, such as Social Security and phone number, birth date and home address, Wilson said.

Releasing such information has led to witness intimidation, violence and even murder, she said.

“The state makes no claim or even insinuation that defendant Slager would directly influence or pressure potential witnesses. The state, however, has an obligation to vigorously protect victims and witnesses in criminal cases,” she said.

If a judge determines that the defense is entitled to prosecution witness addresses and phone numbers, Wilson requested that the information be subject to a protective order prohibiting dissemination of the information.

“Nationwide, law enforcement and the media have reported links between the dissemination of discovery materials, the use of the internet and witness intimidation,” she said.

Andy Savage, who is Slager’s attorney, said he expected that the detailed information about prosecution witnesses would be provided to the defense if Wilson is assured that it will only be used for trial preparation purposes.

“I think that a court would review that and say that defendant is entitled to that information. Because without it, it’s meaningless. All you know is that somebody out there with this name has said something,” Savage said.

“It prevents our side from doing our due diligence and following up and doing what we always do in any case, criminal or otherwise. You always verify the accuracy of the witness recollection,” he said.