CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A defense witness in the trial of a former police officer charged in the death of a black motorist in South Carolina said Monday that melted fibers on the officer’s uniform could have resulted from a stun gun.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division analyst Megan Fletcher also testified that Walter Scott, the 50-year-old man who was shot five times in the back, had gunpowder residue on his hands.
Former North Charleston officer Michael Slager, who is white, faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of Scott’s murder during a traffic stop on April 4, 2015. A bystander caught the shooting on cellphone video, which sparked national outrage when it was shared on the internet.
The defense claims the two men struggled on the ground and Scott got control of Slager’s Taser before the shooting.
Fletcher, the fourth defense witness, testified that the fibers on the left pocket of Slager’s uniform shirt had melted, requiring a temperature of 480 degrees Fahrenheit, and were possibly caused by the stun gun.
“I’m not aware of any other source that could create that heat,” she testified, adding that she couldn’t say definitively a stun gun had caused the damage.
She also testified that gunpowder residue was found on the palm and back of Scott’s right hand and the back of his left hand.
She said such residue can be transferred by holding a weapon, being shot a weapon or touching a weapon that was recently fired. Under cross-examination she acknowledged that it was possible that the residue had been transferred to Scott’s hands when Slager or another officer touched his hands following the shooting.
The trial, which entered a fourth week on Monday, is now expected to last into December.
Defense attorney Andy Savage told Judge Clifton Newman that the defense will need until Wednesday or Thursday of next week to present its case. Defense witnesses are coming to Charleston to testify from as far away as Washington state, New York City and Canada.
Prosecutors called 32 witnesses over nine days before resting last week.