Michael Slager seeks to overturn sentence and conviction in killing of Walter Scott

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Former North Charleston Police Department (NCPD) officer Michael Slager is seeking to overturn his sentence and conviction in the killing of Michael Scott, citing ineffective council.

Slager is currently serving a 20-year sentence for the 2015 shooting of Walter Scott. During a traffic stop, Scott attempted to run from Slager, at which point Slager tased him. According to Slager, Scott attempted to grab the taser, then fled on foot, at which point Slager shot at him eight times, five of which hit him. A video of the struggle surfaced days later, and Slager was arrested.

The case went to court in 2016 and resulted in a mistrial because jurors could not agree on whether Slager was guilty of murder. Slager reached a plea deal in 2017, in which the murder charge was dropped and he plead guilty to a federal civil rights/excessive force violation. Slager was represented by Andy Savage and Elizabeth Franklin-Best.

Slager attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court in 2019, after the US Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit upheld the 20 year sentence. He argued that (1) “the district court erred in finding that the underlying conduct constituted second-degree murder and not voluntary manslaughter; (2) the district court judge erred by consulting with his wife, a highly-regarded forensic pathologist, without providing notice to the defense; (3) the district court erred in finding that Officer Slager’s statement to SLED agents constituted obstruction of justice; (4) the district court erred when he did not find SLED agent Megan Fletcher’s testimony to be sufficiently reliable to admit into evidence; (5) the district court erred by allowing the federal government to pursue its prosecution against Officer Slager when Officer Slager was earlier tried for these same events in state court.”

Now, Slager is appealing again, represented by Christopher Geel, this time claiming that the proceedings violated his Constitutional rights. He is appealing on five grounds:

Ground one charges that counsel did not negotiate the best possible plea deal: “plea and sentencing counsel were constitutionally ineffective in connection with plea negotiations and advising the Defendant on the terms under which he should plead guilty.”

Ground two charges that council failed to present “critical witness testimony” including “favorable evidence.” Critical testimony includes but is not limited to “eyewitness testimony, expert testimony including a use-of-force expert, other witness testimony that was previously presented at the Defendant’s state court trial, and other witness testimony available to defense counsel but not presented at sentencing.”

Ground three charges that counsel was ineffective at advising the Defendant to sign the Plea Agreement: “the facts conceded in the Plea Agreement were detrimental to the defense’s mitigation theory at sentencing, and sentencing counsel nevertheless presented arguments at sentencing that were contrary to the law and contrary to the facts conceded in the Plea Agreement.”

Ground four charges that Appellate counsel failed to raise meritorious issues on direct appeal “during the Defendant’s direct appeal to the Fourth Circuit and in petitioning for certiorari to the Supreme Court.”

Ground five charges that plea and sentencing counsel “were constitutionally ineffective in failing to make meritorious objections to the Guidelines calculations in the PSR and at the sentencing.”

Slager’s former counsel, Andy Savage, provided News 2 with the following statement:

“I was aware that there would be a filing on Michael’s behalf in what is called a 2255 motion.  It is the equivalent of a post-conviction relief filing in State court.  In essence it is a collateral attack on the conviction/sentence. 

I have not seen Michael’s Motion nor am I privy to his assertion of mistakes on my part.  I consider the outcome of Michael’s  case the most unjust result of any case that I have ever handled and if there is anything I did or failed to do  in representing Michael that contributed to that unjust result I am more than happy to accept responsibility in hopes that he will  obtain the relief he rightfully deserves.”

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