The teenage son of an unarmed African-American man shot to death by a white former North Charleston police officer asked a federal judge Wednesday to sentence his father’s killer to life in prison.
“I miss my dad so much. I can’t sleep at night,” Miles Scott, a high school student, told U.S. District Court Judge David Norton.
“I only had one father,” the younger Scott said, clutching a photo of father. “I cry most of the time because I will never see him again. ... I still can’t believe he is gone.”
Reading his statement, Scott said, “I would like you to sentence the defendant to the strongest sentence the law will allow because he murdered my father, my one and only father.”
Scott, who wept at one point during his brief appearance, appeared in federal court on the third day of a sentencing hearing for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager. Slager has pleaded guilty to violating Scott’s civil rights.
The hearing, which began on Monday, will move into its fourth and likely final day Thursday, when Judge Norton is expected to announce his sentence of Slager, 36.
That civil rights charge Slager faces carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. However, Slager’s sentence is expected to be less.
How much more or less depends on how much weight Judge Norton gives the clashing arguments by prosecution and defense attorneys. A government pre-sentencing report recommended the former policeman be sentenced to 10 to 13 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors say Slager deserves more time he lied about the shooting in a police investigation until a bystander’s cell phone video surfaced. That video,which catapulted the case into national notoriety, shows Slager shooting Scott as he was running away.
Defense attorneys Andy Savage and Donald McCune say Slager’s differing statements to police investigators were caused by stress-induced holes in his memories after the rapidly evolving, life-threatening situation.
Moreover, defense attorneys say, Scott contributed to his own death by resisting arrest and fighting with Slager. Slager accepts responsibility for unlawfully killing Scott, but he did it in a state of fear that impeded his ability to think rationally, McCune told Norton in a closing argument late Wednesday.
On the morning of April 4, 2015, Slager pulled Scott’s Mercedes over for a broken brake light. After Scott fled his vehicle, the two men scuffled. Scott broke free and was running away when Slager pulled out his Glock pistol and fired eight shots, five of which struck Scott in the back area.
After Scott’s son testified, defense lawyers called retired North Charleston police Lt. Wade Humphries as a witness. He testified Slager, who made about $44,000 a year, was “the one we would count on to get the job done ... my go-to guy.”
To be clear on his testimony, Judge Norton asked Humphries, “It is not your opinion that this is a righteous (justified) shooting, is it?”
Humphries replied, “No.”
Judy Scott, Walter Scott’s mother, also testified Wednesday, telling the court about the last phone call she received from her son, on the morning of April 4.
“He told me the police had stopped him. The next thing I heard … ‘They Tasing me,’ and he began to moan, and he began to groan. He was in a lot of pain.”
She said she told her son, “Whatever they say, just do it.”
In closing arguments Wednesday, federal prosecutor Jared Fishman told Norton, “It is time to call the shooting what it really was — it was a murder.”
The bystander’s video shows “Slager took deliberate aim at the fleeing Scott and fired at him, the last shot being fired when Scott was 45 feet away. … For each and every one of those eight shots, the defendant was calm, steady and deliberate.”
In reply, Savage told the judge that prosecutors are making Slager a scapegoat when he has accepted responsibility and has legitimate memory problems. “This is not a search for justice, it is a search to send a message to law enforcement.”