[image-2] A federal court has denied an appeal that would have overturned the 20-year prison sentence of Michael Slager, a former North Charleston police officer who in 2017 was found guilty of a civil rights violation in the shooting death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black motorist.

The order was issued Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District.

During Slager’s federal trial in downtown Charleston, prosecutors with the Department of Justice argued that the former cop acted with malice when he shot Scott, who was running away from Slager as he was shot five times.

[image-1]That distinction was important in establishing the underlying basis for the civil rights violation: second-degree murder.

Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Dec. 7, 2017. The City of North Charleston had previously settled with Scott’s family for $6.5 million in October 2015.

Slager is currently serving time at a prison near Denver, Colo.

“Defendant [Slager] cannot negate his malice through ‘sudden quarrel or heat of passion’ when he previously testified he was neither ‘provoked’ nor ‘angry,'” the judges wrote Tuesday, establishing a difference between malice and voluntary manslaughter, which Slager’s team is now claiming.

The appeals court also upheld the testimony of Feidin Santana, a bystander who filmed the shooting on his cell phone.

“In sum, the district court committed no reversible error in sentencing Defendant,” the judges held. “First, the district court did not clearly err in crediting Santana’s description of the encounter and discrediting Defendant’s description. Second, the court properly inferred, from these facts, malice as required for a second-degree murder cross-reference.”

Scott was originally stopped for a broken brake light off Remount Road near Rivers Avenue. [content-4] “Law enforcement officers have the noble calling to serve and protect,” said former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement after Slager’s conviction. “Officers who violate anyone’s rights also violate their oaths of honor, and they tarnish the names of the vast majority of officers, who do incredible work.” [pdf-1]