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Courts, Prosecution, And The Defense

The courts have one of the most important roles in the Criminal Justice system. They are responsible for the interpretation and application of law when crimes are committed and they help to bring resolve to disputes between people, companies and units of government. 

In preparation for this assignment, please carefully review the case of Michael T. Slager below. Also, please review the court report samples below for reference in preparing a standard court report.

Based on your understanding from the readings in chapters 7-9, write a three to four (3-4) page court report in which you:

  1. Summarize the case, including a detailed description of the crime that took place.  
  2. Outline the level of court that was assigned to the case (e.g. local/state, municipal, or federal) and the reason why that level was appropriate.
  3. Describe the key characters in the case and the roles they played.
  4. Explain the charge(s) against the defendant(s) and the evidence presented to justify the charge(s). Indicate whether or not the defendant was offered some form of plea deal prior to the court date. 
  5. State whether any witnesses were called in the case. If so, identify the witness(es) and provide a rationale as to why they were called.
  6. Highlight the outcome of the case (verdict) and take a position on whether the verdict was appropriate based on the charges.
  7. Include at least one (1) additional quality reference in addition to the case file presented.

Your assignment must follow these formatting requirements:

  • Follow standard court report format, using the examples provided in your course shell for reference.
  • Include a cover page containing the title of the assignment, the student’s name, the professor’s name, the course title, and the date. The cover page and the reference page are not included in the required assignment page length.

The specific course learning outcomes associated with this assignment are:

CASE: MICHAEL T. SLAGER (Former North Charleston, S.C. Police Officer)

Note: Please review this case before beginning Assignment 2: Courts, Prosecution, and the Defense. This material is a compilation and summary of articles from the New York Times, CNN, and The Post and Courier in order to best present the facts of this case from a wide lens. Links to all primary sources are available within this case.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (NY Times)— More than two years after a North Charleston, S.C., police officer fired eight rounds toward the back of a fleeing and unarmed black motorist, the lawman whose burst of gunfire was recorded on video stood in a federal courtroom Tuesday to plead guilty to charges that he violated the slain man’s civil rights.

The plea by the officer, Michael T. Slager, assured a rare conviction of a law enforcement official for an on-duty killing, and it left him facing the possibility of life in prison for the April 2015 shooting of Walter L. Scott. Mr. Slager pleaded guilty to a single charge of willfully using excessive force to deprive Mr. Scott of his civil rights.

“We asked for justice,” Anthony Scott, one of Mr. Scott’s brothers, said. “We received justice.”

Mr. Slager said little during a brief hearing in United States District Court here, but he acknowledged the factual basis for the plea agreement, which said he had “used deadly force even though it was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances.”

Minutes later, as Mr. Slager was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, he passed crying members of Mr. Scott’s family. Across the courtroom’s center aisle, members of Mr. Slager’s family stood silently and tearfully.


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The plea deal effectively resolves all of the pending charges against Mr. Slager, 35, who had also been indicted on a charge of murder in state court. While the arrangement offers certain benefits to Mr. Slager, such as a possible reduction under federal sentencing guidelines for acceptance of responsibility, the agreement is mostly a victory for people who have spent years raising alarms about police conduct in the nation.

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will ask the court to apply sentencing guidelines that in effect would be for a second-degree murder charge. Notably, the deal expressly allows prosecutors to urge Judge David C. Norton, who did not immediately set a sentencing hearing, to order Mr. Slager to spend the rest of his life in prison.

“The Department of Justice will hold accountable any law enforcement officer who violates the civil rights of our citizens by using excessive force,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Such failures of duty not only harm the individual victims of these crimes; they harm our country, by eroding trust in law enforcement and undermining the good work of the vast majority of honorable and honest police officers.”

The agreement was greeted here with measured surprise. Although one of South Carolina’s top lawyers, Andrew J. Savage III, was in charge of Mr. Slager’s defense, a jury signaled in December that it nearly returned a conviction for either murder or manslaughter during a state trial.

Those proceedings ended in a mistrial, but some people here had wondered whether they would ultimately prod Mr. Slager into an agreement with prosecutors.

It was not publicly clear until Tuesday morning that it would. But Mr. Slager abruptly dropped the defense that he had offered since Mr. Scott’s death in April 2015: that he had feared for his life after a traffic stop that went awry and a struggle over a Taser device.

The early moments of Mr. Slager’s fatal encounter with Mr. Scott were not in dispute. Mr. Slager, a patrolman in North Charleston, stopped Mr. Scott for a broken taillight. After a brief, cordial interaction, Mr. Scott fled on foot. (His family has suggested that Mr. Scott ran because he feared being jailed over outstanding child support payments.)

Mr. Slager gave chase, and, he later testified struggled with Mr. Scott in a vacant lot over his Taser. But Mr. Scott broke free and continued to run. Mr. Slager then opened fire, striking Mr. Scott in the back and sending him crumpling to the ground.

Part of the episode — some of the most controversial seconds — unfolded as a local barber recorded it on his cellphone while he walked to work. The stark images ricocheted around the internet, made newspaper front pages and led television broadcasts.

Mr. Slager was charged with murder and swiftly fired, and the City of North Charleston reached a $6.5 million settlement with Mr. Scott’s family. Meanwhile, Mr. Slager’s defense team argued that he was a good officer swept up in an era of discontent and protest over police tactics, especially in the wake of a white officer’s killing of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014.

That defiance vanished on Tuesday.

“Our responsibility today is to be quiet,” Mr. Savage said after Mr. Slager entered his plea. Earlier Tuesday, his office had issued a statement that said, “We hope that Michael’s acceptance of responsibility will help the Scott family as they continue to grieve their loss.”

John O’Leary, a defense lawyer in Columbia, the South Carolina capital, who is a former director of the state’s Criminal Justice Academy, said it made sense that Mr. Slager would want to avoid the troubled state prison system and bring the cases that surrounded him to a conclusion.

“I think he’s lucky to get it,” Mr. O’Leary said of the deal.

Scarlett A. Wilson, the local prosecutor, suggested that her decision to accept a plea arrangement was something of a strategic choice. But she and Mr. Scott’s survivors emphasized that they were in agreement about the outcome that many people here said would not have been possible without the bystander’s cellphone video, which showed Mr. Slager standing and firing.

“It’s not a joyous day,” Ms. Wilson said. “It’s sad to see such an event like this happen, and to watch it before your very eyes and to know how many good men and women in law enforcement are also paying for what Michael Slager did. It’s not fair.”

By late afternoon, Mr. Slager had been processed at the Charleston County jail, where he will await sentencing and an eventual transfer to a federal prison.

Standing outside the courthouse, Mr. Scott’s mother, Judy Scott, said she forgave Mr. Slager, and although one of her sons called for Mr. Slager to be sentenced to a life term, Ms. Scott was less specific about what penalty she wanted her son’s killer to face.

“Michael Slager admitted what he did,” Ms. Scott said. “That was enough years for me because no matter how many years Michael Slager gets, it would not bring back my son.”

(CNN) In a plea deal with prosecutors, former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager admitted to using excessive force in the 2015 shooting death of Walter Scott.

Slager shot Scott in the back as the unarmed man was running away from Slager after a traffic stop. In a reversal from his previous account, Slager admitted in court Tuesday that he did not shoot Scott in self-defense and said that his use of force was unreasonable.

Scott’s death sparked renewed “Black Lives Matter” protests after the 50-year-old became the latest in a series of unarmed black men killed by police.

With his family and Scott’s family present, Slager pleaded guilty Tuesday in US District Court in Charleston to a federal charge of deprivation of rights under the color of law. In exchange for the plea, state murder charges, as well as two other federal charges, will be dismissed.

The civil rights offense has a maximum penalty of life in prison. The plea agreement states that the government will ask the court to apply sentencing guidelines for second degree murder, which carries up to 25 years in prison. He was taken into custody after the hearing and will remain there until sentencing later this year.

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Scott’s mother said the sentence mattered little to her now that Slager had admitted responsibility.

“What made me feel good about it is that Michael Slager admitted what he did. That was enough years for me,” she said in response to the question how much time she wanted Slager to serve.

“No matter how many years Michael Slager gets, it would not bring back my son,” she said. “This is a victory for Walter. This is justice for the family, but this is just the beginning.”

The plea marks one of the first resolutions of a high-profile police shooting under new Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He has ordered a review of police reform activities of the previous administration — many of which were launched in response to police-involved shootings.

“The Department of Justice will hold accountable any law enforcement officer who violates the civil rights of our citizens by using excessive force,” Sessions said in a statement Tuesday. “Such failures of duty not only harm the individual victims of these crimes; they harm our country, by eroding trust in law enforcement and undermining the good work of the vast majority of honorable and honest police officers.

Slager was an officer for the North Charleston Police Department when he pulled Scott over for a broken tail light. A few moments later, Scott ran away.

A foot chase ensued, and a bystander’s cell phone video captured Slager firing eight times — striking Scott five times in the back.

Slager initially said he feared for his life because Scott had grabbed his Taser — but the plea agreement contains no such claim.

Slager’s first attempt to use his Taser did not stop Scott. The second deployment dropped Scott to the ground but he got up and took off running again. As he was fleeing, Slager shot him.

“We hope that Michael’s acceptance of responsibility will help the Scott family as they continue to grieve their loss,” Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage, said.

Lawyers for Scott’s relatives said they accepted the plea deal.

“What these government officials did is they told Walter Scott and they told the Scott family, ‘You matter.’ And that is what we need to see all across the country, not just when there is a video,” Justin Bamberg said.

Attorney Chris Stewart said the plea represented a rare show of accountability compared to other police-involved deaths that did not end in pleas or convictions.

“Today is rare. The Garners. The Blands. The Rice family. They didn’t get this type of justice that we got today,” said Stewart, who represents the family of Alton Sterling, who was shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“So it is a phenomenal day. And hopefully this will be the blueprint of future success for civil rights because it’s got to change.”

(Post and Courier) Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating Walter Scott’s civil rights by shooting the fleeing black man five times — a sudden shift after insisting for two years he had gunned down Scott in self-defense.

Slager reached the agreement with prosecutors a week before a jury was scheduled to be selected for his trial in federal court. Under the “global” plea deal, state authorities promptly dropped a separate state murder charge. Two other federal counts of lying to investigators and using a firearm in a violent crime also will be dismissed.

Though a sentence was not agreed upon, the plea eliminates the unpredictability of a jury trial and will place key issues affecting Slager’s punishment squarely in the hands of a judge who’ll decide in the coming weeks whether the officer committed murder in shooting Scott.

The charge — deprivation of rights under the color of law, carries as little as no prison time and as much as life behind bars.

Scott’s loved ones and their attorneys praised the occasion as a rare felony conviction that never came in countless other police shootings nationwide. They watched Slager stand in U.S. District Court in Charleston and make a key admission, that he had used excessive force against Scott and acted willfully with an intent to break the law.

“Today, he told the truth,” Scott’s oldest brother, Anthony, said after the hearing. “That is our victory.”

Captured on video that spread worldwide, the April 2015 shooting following a traffic stop for a minor violation gave credence to long-standing allegations of unfair policing in North Charleston. The stark evidence brought intense scrutiny to the city amid a broader inspection of police uses of force against black people. Slager is white.

North Charleston ultimately paid $6.5 million to Scott’s family.

“Justice doesn’t look like a big settlement check; it looks like today,” Chris Stewart, a Scott family attorney, said. “Today is a monumental day … for civil rights.”

Slager, 35, hugged his lead attorney after entering the plea. From a front-row bench, his mother and wife watched as authorities handcuffed Slager and led him from the packed courtroom. He was later booked into the Charleston County jail where he had spent about eight months after his arrest.

“We hope that Michael’s acceptance of responsibility will help the Scott family as they continue to grieve their loss,” his attorney, Andy Savage, said in a statement.

The civil rights case, scheduled for May 15, would have been the second trial Slager faced. The first, on the state murder charge, ended last year in a hung jury.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, who prosecuted that state case, said the federal conviction captures an element the murder trial would not have: that a policeman had violated Scott’s rights. She hoped the resolution would make law enforcement safer.

“We have to turn this around,” she said. “My hope is that accountability for Michael Slager means that fewer officers will die, that fewer civilians will die.”

Murder still a factor

The patrolman pulled over Scott’s car on April 4, 2015 because of broken brake light. The motorist soon ran.

As the officer tried to subdue Scott with a Taser, they got into a fight. Slager said Scott took the stun gun and that he fired out of fear for his own life.

But bystander Feidin Santana stood behind a nearby fence filming the action with a cellphone. The footage showed Scott running as the Taser bounded along the ground. Slager started shooting when Scott was more than 10 feet away.

Afterward, Slager picked up the Taser and dropped it near Scott’s lifeless body, only to fetch it within seconds.

Slager wasn’t jailed until three days later, after the video emerged publicly. By then, federal authorities alleged, Slager had lied to state investigators by saying Scott was coming at him when he fired, a contradiction to the video evidence.

U.S. District Judge David Norton can consider that alleged deception in deciding a sentence.

Before the next hearing, federal probation agents will compile a report portraying the various aggravating and mitigating factors in the crime. But Norton will have other elements to consider. The sentencing itself could amount to a days-long miniature trial without the same rules of evidence.

© 2017 Strayer University. All Rights Reserved. This document contains Strayer University Confidential and Proprietary information and may not be copied, further distributed, or otherwise disclosed in whole or in part, without the expressed written permission of Strayer University.

CRJ 100 Case Study for Assignment 2 1176 (05-12-2017) Page 5 of 5

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