A federal judge has set jury selection in former North Charleston policeman Michael Slager’s civil rights trial for May 1, formalizing earlier discussions about a schedule for the proceeding.
Charged in Walter Scott’s shooting death, Slager’s trial in state court ended earlier this month with a hung jury after the panel could not unanimously agree on whether the former lawman should be convicted of murder or the lesser manslaughter charge, or be acquitted.
State prosecutors have vowed to retry Slager, but the federal case, meanwhile, has resumed. Slager, 35, is charged in U.S. District Court with violating Scott’s rights under the color of law, lying to investigators and using a firearm in a violent crime. He would face up to life in prison if convicted on the civil rights count.
As a patrol officer, Slager pulled over Scott’s car on April 4, 2015, for a broken brake light. Scott, 50, soon ran from the traffic stop, but Slager reported taking him down with a Taser. During an ensuing struggle, Slager said Scott took the stun gun and turned it on him, prompting him to fire in self-defense.
An eyewitness video showed the Taser bouncing on the ground — though Slager said he didn’t know that at the time — as Scott turned and started running away. The officer fired eight times as Scott’s back was turned to him, hitting Scott with five of those bullets.
Defense lawyers, federal prosecutors and U.S. District Judge David Norton met Dec. 13, about a week after the mistrial declaration, to talk about scheduling the civil rights proceeding. It had been put on hold until the state trial ended.
Their meeting had unfolded behind closed doors.
But in a Dec. 22 order, Norton set a public timeline for the federal trial, calling for opposing attorneys to submit proposals for juror questionnaires by Jan. 17. Such written inquiries will help the attorneys and the judge decide whether prospective jurors might harbor biases or other characteristics that could bar them from serving on the case.
The prosecution and defense teams then must make any motions, including proposals of expert testimony, by Feb. 3, and opposing attorneys will have until Feb. 17 to file responses.
A hearing on those motions will happen no earlier than March 1, the judge said.
The in-person process for picking jurors will start May 1 at the downtown Charleston courthouse, and testimony will start once the panel has been selected, Norton’s order stated.
It's unknown whether the schedule would conflict with any retrial in state court. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has said she wanted to retry Slager "sooner rather than later."