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Defense wants access to clothing in ex-officer murder case

August 12, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — An attorney for a former South Carolina policeman charged with fatally shooting a motorist wants prosecutors to produce the clothing worn by both the officer and victim and to allow the defense to inspect the items in the Charleston area, according to a motion filed Monday.

The motion, filed by lawyer Cameron Blazer, says prosecutors are allowing the clothing to be inspected only at the headquarters of the State Law Enforcement Division in Columbia, about 120 miles.

Blazer represents Michael Slager, the white former North Charleston police officer indicted on a murder charge in the April 4 shooting of 50-year-old Walter Scott. A bystander’s cellphone video showed Slager firing eight times as Scott tried to run from a traffic stop. Slager is white, and Scott was black. The shooting inflamed the national debate about how blacks are treated by white officers.

Blazer’s motion says inspecting clothing is necessary to prepare Slager’s defense.

“The arbitrary refusal to produce these items for inspection at a reasonable location in proximity to the location where the charged conduct occurred” violates state court rules, it said.

The motion says that if items in possession of the state can only be inspected at SLED headquarters “the administration of justice will necessarily grind to a halt” as defense attorneys spend all their time driving back and forth to Columbia.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry referred questions to Scarlett Wilson, the local prosecutor. Wilson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In another motion, filed on Tuesday, the defense seeks the return of Slager’s personal items, including his iPhone, seized from him in April. It said that by now, investigators would have been able to obtain any information they need from the phone.

And in a motion filed last week, the defense asks for a bond hearing for Slager, who has been held in solitary confinement since April 7.

That motion says Slager presents little danger to the community and little risk of fleeing. No hearing has been set.

The 33-year-old Slager faces 30 years to life without parole if convicted of murder. There were no aggravating circumstances such as robbery or kidnapping, so the death penalty doesn’t apply in the case, Wilson has said.

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