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Change of venue sought in S.C. police shooting death case

By Ed Adamczyk
Change of venue sought in S.C. police shooting death case
Lawyers for North Charleston, S.C., police Officer Michael Slager want his murder case to be moved out of the area because of potential jury bias over a video showing the officer fatally shooting a man. Image courtesy the North Charleston Police Department

CHARLESTON, S.C., Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Lawyers for Michael Slager, a former North Charleston, S.C., police officer facing murder charges for fatally shooting a man, requested a change of venue for his trial.

Slager also faces three federal charges, including a civil rights violation, in the death of Walter Scott on April 4, 2015.

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Slager's account of the incident mentions a struggle between the two men after Scott was pulled over for a broken tail light. Ordered by Slager to stay in his car, Scott exited it, returned inside the car, then opened the car door and escaped. Slager chased Scott, firing a Taser, fighting with Scott and then shooting him with five gunshots as the man ran away.

In a motion for a change of venue, Slager's attorneys said a video of part of the incident, which was taken by bystander Feidin Santana and emerged three days after the shooting, puts "profoundly inculpatory information out of context and in a manner guaranteed to sear prejudice into the brains of the viewers."

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The motion also states the video contains footage showing a fight between Slager and Scott, and says that "as the combatants rise from the ground fight, Slager draws his handgun and shoots Scott as he breaks away from Slager."

"The video of the fight is blurry and indistinct, while the video of the shooting itself is clear. As a result, the video is rarely, if ever, shown in its entirety. Instead, the last eight seconds of the video depicting the shooting is shown absent the context of the altercation."

It also says the settlement between Scott's family and North Charleston "is seen as confirming Slager's guilt."

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The video was broadcast on Charleston-area television outlets and has been widely seen on YouTube and other Internet websites.

The change of venue motion concludes that Santana's video created a pervasive bias against Slager; an affidavit included in the filing of the motion adds that a telephone survey of 608 Charleston County adults, taken in September, indicates 91 percent of respondents are aware of the Slager case and 85 percent have seen the video. The motion, for which a hearing was scheduled for Friday, does not mention where the defense attorneys would prefer the case be moved.

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