Publicity in Walter Scott's shooting death has been no greater in the Charleston area than other parts of the state, prosecutors said Tuesday in seeking a local jury for an upcoming federal trial.
Defense attorneys for Michael Slager, the former North Charleston policeman who shot Scott, had asked for jurors to be selected from a pool of residents across South Carolina. They cited the extensive news media coverage of the killing and the cellphone video of it.
But that attention hasn't been limited to the Charleston and Beaufort areas, the federal court division whose residents are typically chosen as jurors for trials here, the prosecutors said in a filing.
"There has been extensive statewide and national coverage," government attorneys Eric Klumb and Jared Fishman wrote. "There is no evidence to suggest that the extent of publicity in the Charleston and Beaufort area exceeds that in the remaining areas of our state."
Presiding U.S. District Judge David Norton made no immediate ruling on the issue.
Slager is charged in the federal case with violating civil rights under the color of law, obstructing justice and using a firearm in a violent crime. A trial is scheduled for May 1.
But Slager, 35, also faces a second murder trial that is set to begin March 1 in state court. The first ended last month in a hung jury.
Each case carries a maximum punishment of lifetime imprisonment.
Slager pulled over Scott's car April 4, 2015, for a bad brake light, and Scott ran. The patrolman said he tried to use a Taser to subdue Scott, but the suspect fought back. Slager said Scott grabbed the stun gun and tried to use it against him. After Scott came after him with the device, Slager said he fired back in self-defense.
The eyewitness footage showed Scott, 50, turning and running away as the Taser bounced on the ground. Scott was about 17 feet away when Slager fired the first of eight shots. Five bullets hit Scott.
Worldwide attention and a national inspection of police use of force against black people shifted to North Charleston when the video emerged publicly three days later.
Slager's defense team, led by Andy Savage, argued before the first murder trial that the attention largely focused on a narrative that ignored the officer's account, and asked for the trial to be moved elsewhere. Prosecutors, though, said that scrutiny was apparent everywhere, not just locally. A judge denied the move.
The federal prosecutors on Tuesday mirrored their state counterparts' argument in fighting for a local jury. They said the defense had failed to show the "good cause" needed for statewide jury pool.
Questionnaires that prospective jurors fill out ahead of a trial, along with questioning in person, can also ensure Slager's right to a fair trial, the authorities argued. Having jurors come from across the state also would be costly: They would have to be reimbursed for travel time or be lodged in local hotels, the prosecutors said.
"These costs are unnecessary," they wrote.