The ex-cop who killed Walter Scott in 2015 will continue his prison sentence undisturbed. Michael Slager, a former North Charleston police officer, asked a U.S. District Court judge to overturn his 2017 sentence on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.
CNN reported that U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel found the aid Slager received from his legal team “fell well within the bounds of reasonable professional competence and practice.”
Gergel rejected Slager’s request, saying that the ex-officer’s actions, not his legal team, garnered the sentence. The judge described the killing of Walter Scott as a “willful act of shooting an unarmed man in the back five times as he ran for his life.”
Slager claimed that his first lawyer failed to inform him of an earlier pre-trial plea agreement. His former attorney also submitted a brief to support the ineffective assistance claim, alleging he relied upon the judge’s statement that the case was not one of murder.
A local ABC affiliate reported that Andy Savage was a prominent defense attorney in Charleston. While Savage claimed he failed Slager, the attorney tried to place part of the blame on the initial judge.
Gergel replaced U.S. District Judge David Norton after requesting that Norton recuse himself from the case. The claim of ineffective assistance of counsel comes after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal.
Slager faced state and federal charges for the killing of Walter Scott. His state trial ended in a mistrial. Slager accepted the federal plea deal for dropping the state charges and two other federal offenses.
During a hearing, Gergel told Slager he did not find his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel plausible or credible.
Gergel’s decision came down the day before a Minneapolis jury found a former officer guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of George Floyd. The jury also found Derek Chauvin guilty of two other lesser inclusive charges.
As Chauvin awaits sentencing, speculation mounts as to his strategy on appeal. On Friday, the Associated Press outlined possible grounds for appeal and strategy that Chauvin’s defense team could use.
There is some speculation that the defense could argue the case’s notoriety as preventing Chauvin from getting a fair trial. An Associated Press overview also mentioned the possibility that jurors may have felt pressured.
Change of venue factored heavily in the 1992 not-guilty verdicts in the cops who brutally beat Rodney King. Officials moved the case over 40 miles from Los Angeles to Simi Valley; a white suburb thought to be more sympathetic with the officers.
Amber Guyger, the former Dallas officer who killed Botham Jean in September 2018, filed an appeal looking to overturn her conviction. Less than two years into her 10-year sentence, Guyger is likely to argue that her “mistake” warranted a lesser charge. Guyger’s former attorney Toby Shook told a Dallas CBS affiliate that the former officer will probably argue that entering the wrong apartment warrants a finding of negligent homicide, not murder.
A three-judge panel will hear the appeal and make a decision.