Michael Slager, ex-officer charged in fatal shooting, seeks release

Last Updated Sep 10, 2015 6:19 PM EDT

CHARLESTON, S.C. - A judge reached no decision Thursday on whether to grant bail for a white former police officer charged with killing an unarmed black man during a traffic stop in coastal South Carolina.

Judge Clifton Newman said he wanted to review information presented during an afternoon hearing. He did not say when he would rule on bail for former officer Michael Slager, who is charged in the April 4 shooting death of Walter Scott in North Charleston.

During the hearing Scott's mother fought back tears as she told the court that Slager committed murder without mercy.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Scott should not have run from the traffic stop that sparked the confrontation, but that didn't mean Slager "should have become a firing squad."

Lawyers for Michael Slager have filed 150 pages of documents ahead of the hearing, including a toxicology report showing there was cocaine in Walter Scott's blood when he was killed. The documents also included a psychological assessment that the former North Charleston officer poses little danger of committing violence.

The assessment, by Charleston-area psychologist Dr. Leonard Mulbry Jr., concluded that Slager has no criminal history, is mentally stable and has no history of physical violence outside his work as a policeman. The report found Slager "to be at very low risk of future violence."

CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues reported earlier this week that Slager's defense team also plans to present evidence that includes never-before-seen stills from a cell phone video that is said to show Scott on top of Slager.

Slager's attorney, Andy Savage, suggested that Scott may not have been completely unarmed the entire time.

"Maybe he was found without any weapon on him at the time that he died," Savage told CBS News.

Slager's defense team believes there was more of a struggle between Walter and Slager than prosecutors have revealed.

The decision on whether to free Slager on bond rests with a judge. Judges considering bond generally weigh whether a suspect is a risk of committing other crimes or a risk of fleeing, not the person's guilt or innocence. And some defendants charged with murder in Charleston County have been released on bond. But Slager's case is unique, said Joe Savitz, a criminal defense attorney in Columbia.


North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, right, is seen shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back as he runs away, in this still image from video, in North Charleston, South Carolina, April 4, 2015.


"In a case like this, you have got the video tape, which regardless of what he says about what the tape really shows, shows him shooting a man repeatedly in the back," Savitz said, referring to a bystander's cellphone video that captured Slager firing eight times as the 50-year-old Scott ran away.

"It would take a very courageous judge to let him out under the circumstances. If the judge lets him out, and Charleston just goes up in flames, they're going to blame the judge. No judge wants to be responsible for additional violence."

Slager, 33, has been in solitary confinement since his arrest. He was fired after the shooting, which inflamed the national debate about how blacks are treated by law officers.

Slager faces 30 years to life without parole if convicted of murder. There were no aggravating circumstances such as robbery or kidnapping, so the death penalty doesn't apply in the case, prosecutor Scarlett Wilson has said.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Scott's family called for peace, an act some have credited - along with the officer's speedy arrest - with staving off the protests and violence that have erupted in other cities where black men have died during encounters with police. But, if Slager is released, some community leaders said that could change rapidly, forecasting an uneasy situation that could mean protests.

"We cannot continue to give grace, we cannot continue to be forgiving, unless we see that the other side of the fence is willing to work along with us, to see things our way," Thomas Dixon of People United Take Back Our Community said at a news conference Wednesday in front of the jail where Slager is being held. "In the event that there is no grace, I guarantee you, the days of grace in Charleston soon will expire. What's beyond that, I'm not sure."