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Ex-North Charleston police officer who killed Walter Scott petitions U.S. Supreme Court

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Poilce Shooting North Charleston (copy) (copy)

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager walks outside the state courthouse in Charleston during his murder trial in December 2016. That proceeding ended in a mistrial, and he later pleaded guilty to a federal charge in Walter Scott's shooting. File/Mic Smith/AP

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence after he gunned down a black man who fled a traffic stop four years ago, has appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2017, Slager's team brokered a deal with prosecutors and he pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation for using excessive force when he fatally shot Walter Scott, 50. That came in exchange for dropping a separate state murder charge.

 In December 2018, a Charleston federal judge sentenced the former officer to 20 years in prison. In an opinion published in January, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Slager's two-decade sentence. It's that opinion that Slager and his legal team are challenging. 

In the petition filed April 29 with the Supreme Court, Slager's defense argues the appeals court denied the former officer his due process when it affirmed the sentencing on the grounds of second-degree murder instead of voluntary manslaughter.

Slager's petition to get his case in front of the high court is based on three factors: that the district court did not fully consider how far away Feidin Santana — who captured the video of the incident — was from what was happening and, subsequently, that his court testimony was speculative; that the court erred in "discounting" Slager's testimony because his story changed; and lastly, that the court supposedly discounted defense expert witnesses who testified the fight between Slager and Scott was more violent than what was portrayed.

Ahead of any legal proceedings, the case garnered attention across the country and contributed to a national dialogue surrounding use of police force against black civilians.

On April 4, 2015, Scott, 50, ran from Slager following a traffic stop. Slager pulled out his Taser, and a fight broke out. A video captured by Santana showed Scott and Slager struggling, though conflicting reports later emerged about who had the upper hand in the fight.

Slager's defense said Scott beat him and grabbed for the Taser. As it fell to the ground, Scott took off on foot. The officer fired eight shots at the fleeing Scott, five of which hit him.

Slager was arrested on a murder charge after the video surfaced three days later.

When the case went to trial in 2016, jurors in the state’s murder case couldn’t decide if Slager was guilty, resulting in a mistrial. The former lawman later reached a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty in May 2017 to violating Scott's civil rights.

Slager remains incarcerated in federal prison in Colorado and is expected to be released in 2034. His defense counsel, Columbia-based attorney Elizabeth Franklin-Best, could not be reached for comment.

Reach Michael Majchrowicz at 843-937-5591. Follow him on Twitter @mjmajchrowicz.

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