Lawyers representing former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager called the case's prosecutor and original defense attorney to the stand for questioning in federal court Friday.
Slager, 35, faces federal charges of violating rights under the color of law and lying to investigators regarding the shooting death of Walter Scott, a black man, after a traffic stop on April 4, 2015. Slager's state murder trial gained national attention after eyewitness video footage called into question the officer's account of the incident. It ended in a hung jury and mistrial.
Defense attorney Andy Savage asked a federal judge to block certain phrases and pieces of evidence from Slager's May 15 trial, including the words "homicide" and "victim," discussions of Scott's family's suffering and references to Slager's mental state at the time of the shooting.
Judge David Norton will continue hearing arguments about the motions at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the federal courthouse in Charleston.
On the stand, Slager's initial defense attorney David Aylor said a State Law Enforcement Division officer lied to him when he asked if agents had any eyewitnesses, video footage or autopsy results from the shooting. Case agents would later testify in state court that they knew about Feidin Santana's video before interviewing Slager, and case files introduced in court Friday showed that Scott's autopsy results had been transferred to the agent the day after the shooting.
Aylor said false statements from SLED affected the advice he gave to his client.
"I had no reason to distrust her," Aylor said of SLED case agent Angela Peterson, who questioned Slager along with another SLED agent at Aylor's office on April 7, 2015. "That never crossed my mind that anyone with a badge would be dishonest to me."
During cross-examination, Civil Rights Division trial attorney Jared Fishman questioned why Aylor dropped Slager as a client the same day Santana's footage of the shooting surfaced publicly. The video showed that Scott was running away as Slager fired shots toward him.
"It's like any other relationship," Aylor said of his former attorney-client relationship. "It's complicated."
Savage argued that Santana, who captured the incident on a cellphone, had lied about being paid by prosecutors for his travel expenses from the Dominican Republic to testify.
Savage questioned 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, who is prosecuting case, about money her office had given to Santana for plane ticket reimbursements, lodging and a per-diem payment during previous court hearings. Savage argued that Santana had lied under oath by saying he paid his way back to the U.S., but Wilson held that he was only talking about his initial plane ticket to New Jersey, which he bought up front before receiving a reimbursement.
"We offered to pay for his return to the United States, and he refused," Wilson said. "We had no subpoena power to (the Dominican Republic), and he came back willingly."
Wilson said during a recess that she thought the matter of Santana's pay was a "non-issue." "It'll be thrown out easily when he testifies," Wilson said.
Savage also put Slager on the stand Friday. The former officer said his memory of the event was incomplete when he gave his first statements to supervisors and investigators but that he remembered more as he reviewed documents with legal counsel.
"I was tired, out of breath, my mind was foggy," Slager said. "Some things I could remember, some things I couldn't remember."
Slager's defense team also argued that Slager's concurrent federal and state cases represented double jeopardy, saying that federal and state prosecutors were working together closely on the Slager case. Judge Norton rejected the idea, citing decades of precedent on the doctrine of dual sovereignty.
"If you want to change the law, you'll have to get somebody else to change it for you," Norton said.