CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Michael Slager’s defense called witnesses Monday to make a case that the white former South Carolina patrolman was stunned by his own Taser in a struggle before he shot a fleeing black motorist in the back.
Slager faces 30 years to life if convicted of murder in the April 2015 death of Walter Scott. The 50-year-old motorist was hit with five of the officer’s eight bullets as he tried to escape from a traffic stop.
Mark Kroll, an expert on the effects of electrical shocks, testified that melted fibers on Slager’s uniform could only have been caused by being stunned with a Taser at close range.
“There’s really no alternative source for the damage,” Koll testified. He later fired a Taser in the courtroom so the jury could hear the distinctive electronic sound the weapon makes and identify it in the cellphone video. The jury of eleven whites and one black has reviewed the video repeatedly, including several times frame by frame.
The defense contends that the two men struggled over Slager’s stun gun and that Scott got control of it for a time before trying to get away.
A South Carolina Law Enforcement analyst also testified earlier that the uniform damage was likely caused by a stun gun. Megan Fletcher said the fibers on the left pocket of Slager’s uniform shirt had melted, requiring a temperature of 480 degrees Fahrenheit.
“I’m not aware of any other source that could create that heat,” she testified. She added that she couldn’t definitively say a stun gun did the damage.
She also testified that gunpowder residue was found on the palm and back of Scott’s right hand and the back of his left hand.
She said residue can be transferred by holding a weapon, being shot by a weapon or touching a weapon that was recently fired. Under cross-examination, she said it was possible it was transferred when Slager or another officer touched Scott’s hands after the shooting.
Scott’s family has said he may have run from the North Charleston officer because he’d already been jailed before for failing to pay child support, and didn’t want to serve time again due to an outstanding warrant for the same offense.
The defense had Amanda Haselden, a local attorney who practices mainly in family court, tell the jury how the child support system works in South Carolina.
She testified that people arrested on bench warrants go to jail until they can appear before a family court judge, but don’t generally stay locked up if they have jobs and can work to get money for the children.
The trial, which entered a fourth week on Monday, is now expected to last into December.
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