Slager Hearing (copy)

Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager (right) talks with his lawyer, Andy Savage, after a January hearing in state court. He's expected Monday to appear for a federal court proceeding. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Michael Slager can't remember the account he gave during an interview in which he's accused of lying about Walter Scott's shooting death, the former North Charleston policeman testified Monday.

A federal judge in the civil rights case had told Slager last week to review documentation of his interview with the State Law Enforcement Division to refresh his memory.

But Slager said Monday that his attorney had told him not to.

Prosecutors quizzed him on crucial details anyway. They asked whether he remembered saying that he fired his pistol as Scott was coming at him, but Slager said he couldn't recall his answers from two years ago.

Unlike the shooting itself, Slager's interview was not recorded.

"My mind was fuzzy," he said of his comprehension in the time after the April 2015 shooting. "I don't remember everything. ... I went through a traumatic experience."

The second day of his testimony in the pretrial hearing was key because the former lawman is charged with lying to the investigators. They arrested him three days after the shooting, when video emerged showing him firing as Scott ran away.

Slager, 35, also is accused of violating Scott's rights under the color of law. His trial is scheduled for May 15 in U.S. District Court.

The defense is fighting to have Slager's interview excluded from the trial, but prosecutors argued that his testimony Monday was telling.

Slager said he still remembers portions of the shooting itself.

"This defendant is willing to change his story when he thinks it will benefit him," said Jared Fishman of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in Washington.

Judge David Norton did not immediately rule on the defense motion. Another hearing on May 2 is expected to feature argument over which experts should be allowed to testify during the trial.

Slager was tried on a state murder charge last year, but a jury could not agree on a verdict, prompting a mistrial that cleared the way for the civil rights prosecution. The former patrolman faces up to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.

On April 4, 2015, he stopped Scott's car for a broken brake light, but the motorist ran. During a struggle, the policeman said Scott grabbed his Taser, drawing his gunfire in self-defense.

But the eyewitness footage cast doubt on his account. It showed Scott turn and run away as the stun gun hit the ground. With Scott several feet away, Slager fired eight shots, hitting him five times from behind.

The defense has argued, though, that Slager's story has remained consistent while SLED's documentation of the 2015 interview is not. That's one of the reasons attorney Andy Savage cited Monday when he said he instructed his client not to review the agents' notes as the judge had requested Friday, when Slager first took the witness stand.

Requiring Slager to testify anyway about SLED's questioning amounted to an "involuntary statement," Savage argued.

But the attorney's motion to toss out the interview centers on what SLED told Slager's first lawyer, David Aylor, before the agents started asking questions. Aylor testified last week that the investigators had lied when asked whether they had video of the shooting.

Slager had refused to give any statements until he could speak with an attorney. Savage argued that the police lying to an attorney "taints the criminal justice system" and amounts to a due process violation.

"He obviously knew what his rights were ... but the information that was provided to him ... encouraging him to waive his rights was based on trickery," Savage said. "There must be transparency, honesty and integrity."

But the investigators were not required to divulge their knowledge of evidence to anyone, including a lawyer, Fishman told the judge.

Even if the agents had lied to the attorney, the prosecutor insisted, their ensuing questioning of the Slager would still be legal.

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Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or

Andrew Knapp is editor of the Quick Response Team, which covers crime, courts and breaking news. He previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at Florida Today, Newsday and Bangor (Maine) Daily News. He enjoys golf, weather and fatherhood.