CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The bystander who pressed record on his cellphone after spotting a white North Charleston policeman trying to arrest a black motorist took the witness stand Friday at the former officer’s murder trial.
Feidin Santana, whose steady hand recorded Michael Slager firing eight shots at the fleeing Walter Scott, was called by the prosecution to introduce the video to the jury. The images of the unarmed man being killed stunned the nation as they spread widely on the internet after the fatal encounter in April 2015.
“For some reason I decided to use my phone to record and prevent something that might happen,” he testified. “It was something I will never forget.”
Slager’s defense had sought to keep the video out of the trial, but didn’t object Friday after Santana took the stand. The defense did have two more requests: They wanted the jury to be instructed that the proper perspective to consider the action would be from the perspective of the officer, and they asked that the jury not be allowed to see the video in slow motion.
Judge Clifton Newman denied both requests, saying “I don’t seek to control the manner in which the state presents its evidence.” The jurors then donned headphones to watch the recording.
Slager faces 30 years to life if convicted of murder, and has been allowed to remain free pending a verdict.
Speaking outside court Thursday after the first day of trial, attorney for Scott’s family said they aren’t worried that a jury made up of 11 whites and one black is hearing the case.
“All you need in this case is everything all juries have: two eyes and a brain. It doesn’t matter what color they are, because they have eyes that can see that videotape,” said their attorney, Chris Stewart.
“That jury is intense — watching everything,” Stewart said after the opening day of testimony. “They know there is no explanation at all for shooting at a man eight times while running away.”
Scott’s youngest brother, Rodney, said the family is praying and “hopefully we’re going to get justice.”
One of the early witnesses was Pierre Fulton, Scott’s co-worker and friend who was in passenger seat when Slager pulled over the 1990 Mercedes for a broken tail light.
He Scott ran after Slager returned to his cruiser to check Scott’s driver’s license information.
“The next thing you know, he was out the door,” Fulton said.
He said he heard gunshots a short time later, but didn’t see the shooting. It also happened beyond the reach of the dash cam video from Slager’s cruiser that the jury watched.
Just before he bolted, Scott called his mother on his cellphone.
“He sounded in distress,” Judy Scott, 73, told the jury as she fought back tears. “I told him, ‘You know North Charleston policemen, so just do whatever they say.'”
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Slager fired eight times after failing to subdue Scott with a stun gun; five of the shots hit Scott in the back and buttocks.
Slager must be held accountable for “his decision to go too far — his decision to let his sense of authority get the better of him,” Wilson said.
The defense contends Scott was shot after the two men wrestled for control of his Taser.
Savage said Slager “earned a reputation of excellence” in his five years with the police and wondered why Scott did not obey the officer
“It wasn’t Mr. Slager who was angry and full of animosity,” he said.
The family has said Scott may have tried to flee because he was worried about having to go back to jail for missing child support payments. Savage called that “pure speculation,” and said there was no way Slager could have known Scott was unarmed.
“He never had a chance to pat him down. He never had a chance to frisk him,” he said.
(Photo Source: AP)