CHARLESTON, S.C. – Prosecutors in South Carolina are still presenting their case for murder in the trial of a white ex-patrolman who fatally shot a black motorist during a traffic stop. But Michael Slager's defense team is already trying to show that the state bungled the investigation.
Slager faces 30 years to life if convicted in the April 2015 shooting death of Walter Scott, who was unarmed as he tried to run from his car in North Charleston. A bystander recorded Scott's death on a cellphone video that has been viewed millions of times.
As the state case enters a fifth day Wednesday, Almon Brown, who handled the crime scene investigation for the State Law Enforcement Division, returns to the stand for more cross-examination.
Brown testified Wednesday that when he arrived at the scene several hours after the shooting, he was briefed that the shooting happened during a confrontation between Scott and Slager. But he said he had concerns when he examined the body and saw that Scott had been shot in the back.
During questioning by Slager's attorney, Brown testified that investigators combed the scene for three hours. He said three of the four Taser probes fired from Slager's gun were recovered, including one found in Scott's body. He testified that the gun was fired twice, so there should have been four probes.
Brown also said that there were no signs on Scott's body of "stippling," a pattern of gunpowder residue found when people are shot at close range.
Brown testified that the order to close down the investigation at the scene came from a higher-up.
"Some captain way above your pay grade made that decision," defense attorney Andy Savage declared, calling the investigation "a rush of three hours at the crime scene."
The defense contends Slager and Scott wrestled for control of the stun gun. Brown told Savage he recommended DNA testing on the Taser to confirm who handled it. But he said the recommendation was rejected.
"Some captain overruled you?" Savage asked. "Yes sir," Brown replied.
"You were obligated to look to confirm the truthfulness of what Mr. Slager said," Savage told him.