In a petition filed April 29, the former North Charleston Police Department officer’s attorney wants the highest court to determine if the district court deny Slager’s right to due process when it found that the underlying conduct at issue, Officer Michael Slager’s shooting of Mr. Walter Scott, immediately after the two were engaged in a physical altercation on the ground, constituted second-degree murder and not voluntary manslaughter.
Elizabeth A. Franklin-Best of Blume, Franklin-Best, and Young out of Columbia is representing Slager in the appeal.
“The district court’s finding of second-degree murder is not supported by a fair, or accurate, reading of the record of Officer Michael Slager’s sentencing proceeding,” Franklin-Best wrote in her petition.
In December 2017, a judge sentenced Slager to 20 years in prison for shooting Walter Scott to death in 2015. Slager pleaded guilty to violating Scott’s civil rights by unjustly shooting him in the back five times as he was running away from a traffic stop. The shooting was preceded by a ground scuffle between the men.
“His case raises an important issue for the larger law enforcement community, so I suspect the Supreme Court will seriously look at the case,“ she told News 2 Tuesday.
She claims Officer Slager was denied his right to due process. In the petition she outlined three errors she believes made in his case.
First, the district court erred when it fully credited government witness, Feidan Santana’s testimony without considering Santana’s distance from these events as they were unfolding, the speculative quality of his testimony, and the fact that, in at least one material aspect, it was concededly erroneous. Next, the district court erred in discounting Officer Slager’s testimony. Lastly, the district court erred in discounting the findings of three expert witnesses whose conclusions supported a finding that the ground altercation between Officer Slager and Mr. Scott was much more provocative and violent than found by the district court.
“Nowhere in its order does the court even acknowledge that Santana was not close to these events when they happened. The uncontroverted testimony was that Santana was approximately 136 feet from Officer Slager and Mr. Scott when Officer Slager shot Mr. Scott. Before that, and during the crucial on-ground altercation, Santana was even farther away,” Franklin-Best wrote in her petition. The district court’s wholesale adoption of Santana’s testimony was error.
“Our claim is that the district court judge erred by finding Officer Slager guilty of 2nd degree murder, and not voluntary manslaughter, given the highly physical ground altercation that happened just a mere moment before he fired his service weapon,” the attorney told News 2. “The central question in this case is whether Officer Slager was motivated by fear or malice, and an objective look at the evidence shows that he was deeply fearful when he shot Mr. Scott. We’re hopeful that the Supreme Court will appreciate that Officer Slager did not kill Mr. Scott out of malice, but because he was truly frightened of being killed that morning, as many other officers are during the course of their very dangerous, but critically important, duties.”
Parties who are not satisfied with the decision of a lower court must petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case. The primary means to petition the court for review is to ask it to grant a writ of certiorari.
The Supreme Court has its own set of rules. According to these rules, four of the nine Justices must vote to accept a case.