Sentencing hearings for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager reached an emotional peak Wednesday afternoon as Walter Scott’s son listed the ways his life changed following his father’s death in 2015.
“As life goes on, my father will never see me play high school football, graduate from high school, graduate from college,” said Miles Scott as he held back tears. “I will no longer see my dad at cookouts, family reunions … watching him sing, or seeing him in person. My heart is destroyed because the way my father went was rough, and you only get one father, not two.”
Scott then urged Judge David Norton to give Slager the strongest possible sentence.
“I would like (for you) to sentence the defendant to the strongest sentence the law will allow because he murdered my one and only father,” Scott said.
Michael Slager stopped Walter Scott for a broken brake light in April 2015. Scott fled the scene, afraid because he owed child support payments according to his family. He was shot in the back five times as he ran away. A bystander caught the shooting on video.
This week’s sentencing hearings are a chance for Judge Norton to decide the basis for Slager’s punishment: second-degree murder, as the federal prosecution is arguing, or manslaughter, as posited by the defense.
The day began with a cross-examination of defense witness and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Charles Morgan. Morgan said Tuesday that his analysis of Slager showed a non-impulsive person who was “high in what we call conscientiousness.”
The defense is arguing that Scott grabbed Slager’s stun gun and had an altercation with him on the ground, which cannot be clearly seen in the bystander’s video. On Tuesday, audio and video experts claimed that a ground struggle could be seen and heard with professional enhancements.
Dr. Morgan wrote in a report after meeting with Slager that the former officer did not remember Scott being on top of him. Morgan said that Slager told him his torn-up uniform led him to believe he had been “Tasered.” Morgan also testified that Slager’s varying accounts may be the result of being involved in a high-stress situation.
The defense said that North Charleston’s homicide rates have gone up following the possible chilling effect of Slager’s 2016 state murder charges. The Post & Courier reported in October that 2017 has been the deadliest year on record for the city.
Retired North Charleston officer Wade Humphries, a former indirect supervisor of Michael Slager, called Slager his “go-to” man in the department and said that Slager was following his training when shooting at the suspect “until the threat cease[d].”
When Judge Norton asked Humphries whether he believed Scott’s killing constituted a “righteous shooting,” Humphries simply replied, “No.”
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday morning.