CHARLESTON, S.C. - Former South Carolina patrolman Michael Slager wrestled with Walter Scott on the ground and was entangled in Taser wires before shooting Scott as he fled a traffic stop, a defense witness testified Thursday.
Slager, who is white, is charged with murder in the shooting death of the 50-year-old Scott, a black motorist who was unarmed when he ran from the officer in April 2015. Scott was shot five times in the back in a shooting captured on cellphone video that was shared on the internet and stunned the nation.
Forensics video analyst Grant Fredericks testified that he used computers to enhance the video to stabilize it and make it clearer.
Although the video shown to the jury was shaky and blurry in spots, Fredericks said it shows Scott on his side with his arm around Slager’s upper body. He said Slager’s left hand can be seen holding Scott’s wrist and there are Taser wires tangled around Slager before the shooting.
The defense contends the two men wrestled and Scott got control of the officer’s stun gun before the shooting.
Fredericks combined cellphone video, dashcam video and audio and police radio audio to create a timeline of the shooting. A prosecution witness on Wednesday made a similar presentation that also included aerial footage of the incident scene recorded by a drone.
Fredericks testified the prosecution video was misleading because the software used over-processed the video and that some video frames were stretched, making it appear Scott was farther away from Slager than he was at the time of the shooting.
Fredericks was not allowed to testify about what he thought Slager and Scott said to each other during the incident.
Slager can be clearly heard on enhanced audio shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing his stun gun at Scott. Other voices were not so clear.
With the jury out of the courtroom, a defense attorney handed a transcription to Circuit Judge Clifton Newman who read it and said the defense interpretation of the audio included Scott cursing at the police and Slager saying “let go of my Taser or I’m going to have to shoot you.”
But Newman ruled the evidence was hearsay because a defense audio expert, not Fredericks himself, has determined what the men may have been saying.
Eleven white jurors and one black juror are hearing the case. Newman, who is black, on Thursday appointed the black juror as jury foreman.
The trial resumes Monday. Court adjourned early Thursday, and there is no court Friday because the judge has a scheduling conflict.