A judge on Monday did not immediately decide whether to delay the second murder trial of Michael Slager, the former North Charleston police officer who fatally shot Walter Scott.
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman scheduled the trial for March 1, with jury summonses being delivered this month. But Slager's defense team filed paperwork seeking a postponement, citing, in part, older murder cases that haven't been resolved, along with scheduling conflicts for attorneys and witnesses.
Newman held the hearing in downtown Charleston to take up defense lawyer Andy Savage's filing. But instead of ruling, the judge gave Savage and 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson time to discuss alternative dates before they gather again at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
"Scheduling is difficult," he said. "There will probably never be a convenient time for 50-something people to appear for a trial."
Slager, now 35, pulled over Scott's car on April 4, 2015, for a broken brake light, and the 50-year-old motorist later ran. Slager tried to subdue him with a Taser, but the two fought, he said. The officer said Scott grabbed the device and tried to use it against him, prompting his gunfire in self-defense.
But an eyewitness said Scott was simply trying to get away. The bystander recorded video of Scott turning and running as Slager fired. Five of the eight shots hit Scott.
At the end of Slager's month-long trial in December, 12 jurors could not agree on a verdict, and Newman ordered a mistrial.
Slager also faces three federal charges in a civil rights trial May 1. Whether that happens likely hinges on the outcome of the state's case.
Wilson said Monday she had hoped for an even earlier start date.
"The victim's family ... is anxious for a resolution," she said.
Savage's reasons for seeking a delay remain unchanged, he told the judge. He had indicated that some witnesses would not be available at any point in March. "We had a difficult time trying to coordinate their appearance" in the first trial, he said.
"This case has to be retried," Newman said. "I'm ready, willing, able and available to try it."
But, he said, "both the state and the defense have the right to be prepared."