A federal judge is set to decide the fate of a former North Charleston police officer caught on video fatally shooting an unarmed Black man.
A U.S. judge on Monday, Dec. 4, will begin hearing evidence in the case against ex-officer Michael Slager, who pleaded guilty in May of violating the civil rights of 50-year-old Walter Scott when he killed him during a traffic stop in 2015, according to Reuters. Slager, who is white, could spend the rest of his life behind bars for the shooting.
Convictions of U.S. officers in deadly on-duty shootings are rare, however. Thanks to a plea bargain, prosecutors have already dropped two federal charges, and a state murder charge against Slager, the wire service reported. His state trial last year ended with a hung jury.
The former cop fired eight shots at Scott’s back as he fled the traffic stop on April 4, 2015. The deadly shooting was captured on a bystander’s cell phone video, sparking outrage and further exacerbating concerns over police treatment of nonwhite civilians.
In a hearing in U.S. District Court in Charleston on Monday, prosecutors are expected to seek a life sentence, arguing that Slager committed second-degree murder and should be punished for obstruction of justice, according to CNN. They also believe Slager repeatedly lied to police about when he shot Scott and tampered with the crime scene by moving his Taser closer to the slain man’ body.
Slager’s attorneys argue, however, the offense amounts to voluntary manslaughter, not murder. The officer said he feared for his life when Scott took his stun gun during a brief struggle. The attorneys also claim stress from the case was to blame for Slager’s “swiss cheese memory” of the fatal encounter.
“We’re praying that he will get a just sentence,” Scott’s brother, Anthony Scott, 55, told CNN. “If he gets zero time, God has it under control.”
In a separate statement to Reuters, the elder Scott expressed his family’s weariness over the lengthiness of the court proceedings over these last 2 1/2 years.
“If it had been a regular citizen, this process would be over already,” he said. “Being as it’s a police officer, they have that get-out-of-jail-free card they can use to say: ‘I felt like my life was threatened.’ ”
Scott said the family won’t be satisfied with “anything less than 20 years” for Slager.