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Judge to take up public defender request, other issues in Michael Slager case

March 14, 2017 GMT

A judge is expected Tuesday to hear arguments about whether Michael Slager should get a taxpayer-funded attorney for his second murder trial in Walter Scott’s shooting.

The former North Charleston police officer’s defense team, led by Charleston lawyer Andy Savage, has cited his poverty and general lack of financial wherewithal in asking for a public defender — a second bid of its kind in the case.

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman rejected Slager’s first request to allow public money for defense expert witnesses in the first trial. He will take up the latest motion, along with other pretrial issues, during a noon proceeding at the Charleston County courthouse in downtown Charleston.

The retrial is set for August. Whether it happens could hinge on the outcome of a federal civil rights case against Slager that’s slated for a May court date. The former lawman faces up to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge in each trial.

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Savage already represents Slager, 35, as a publicly funded attorney for the federal proceeding. Whether a similar arrangement would be proposed for the state trial as a result of Slager’s motion last month remains unclear.

He pulled over Scott’s car April 4, 2015, for a broken brake light and chased after the running motorist. They fought, and the officer said Scott grabbed his Taser and tried to use it against him. He saw the stun gun as a threat and opened fire.

But when he started shooting, the device was rolling on the ground, though Slager said he didn’t know that at the time. An eyewitness video showed Scott turning and running as Slager fired eight times. Five bullets hit Scott from behind.