CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The former North Charleston police officer convicted in the fatal 2015 shooting of Walter Scott is working to overturn his sentence by citing ineffective counsel.
Michael Slager was represented by a new attorney during an evidentiary hearing on Monday, where they argued his previous defense team – which was led by prominent Charleston attorney Andy Savage – did not offer his client adequate representation during the trial.
Slager was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to violating Walter Scott’s civil rights.
It stemmed from an attempted traffic stop over a malfunctioning brake light in April 2015.
When Scott began to run from Slager, the officer pulled out a taser and during a scuffle, Scott attempted to grab the device and continued to run. Slager then shot at him eight times, striking Scott five times.
A bystander video of the incident surfaced online, leading to Slager’s arrest.
One of the key issues discussed during Monday’s virtual evidentiary hearing was a statement made by the then-presiding judge, David Norton, who allegedly expressed his opinion that “this was not a murder case” during an ex-parte meeting.
Savage said he used that information to later recommend that Slager agree to a plea deal that would have been less than the 20-year sentence.
Both Slager’s father and then-wife also testified during Monday’s hearing. His father saying he was not told about one possible sentence until Savage mentioned it in court.
His former wife, Jamie Slager, said the judge’s comment was the reason Slager agreed to the plea deal. She recalled hearing about a discussion where the judge said it wasn’t a murder case. “That’s why we decided to take the plea deal,” she said.
The US Attorney cross examined Savage and noted that the defendant had dozens of experts and a large team working the case.
Savage also stating it was the largest team he has ever worked with on a case.
Federal judge Richard M. Gergel will rule on the request at a future date.