Response: Law Professors Mistakenly Claim that Michael Slager Planted Evidence

Walter Scott unarmed black man was chased and shot by a police officer in South Carolina

By Dick Griest

Let me bring to your attention evidence which I believe makes the legal opinions suspect of the above two individuals one of which has been quoted in your paper. In his Op/Ed appearing December 15 in the L.A. Times and subsequently widely republished, Professor Philip Stinson states:

Sometimes bad cops defy their training. Sometimes they plant evidence to cover up their crimes. Sometimes they give false statements or write false reports. All of these things happened with Michael Slager: He didn’t do what he was trained to do, he planted evidence — a Taser — and then he lied about it when questioned by investigators.

Later on December 22 Professor Justin Hansford told Sputnik News:

Most recently there was an officer named Michael Slager on trial for the killing of Walter Scott in South Carolina. The killing was caught on video. He was caught planting evidence on video. He was trying to avoid accountability and it did not matter that all of it was caught on video because there was a mistrial,” he narrated.

To plant evidence you have to leave it in place long enough for the crime scene investigators to find it, which was clearly not the case in this instance. To escape prosecution in a libel trial Stinson and Hansford would have to plead incompetence in not seeing officer Slager pick up the Taser in the video less than 30 seconds after he dropped it. But the “planting the Taser” meme had been debunked on Charleston Thug Life on the very day the video surfaced with clear frame captures showing Slager picking up the Taser and holstering it. https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20150511185225/http://charlestonthuglife.net/2015/04/new-developments-2

 

I suspect that these two professors are cop haters, and had seen all they needed to see so couldn’t be bothered playing the video an extra 30 seconds before writing about their outrage.  If so, they would not be the best source of opinion for an unbiased journalism article.

 

They probably felt that their law degree qualified them to express an opinion on the injustice of the Slager trial after watching only 2.7 seconds of the video that the jury spent an entire month dissecting.  And that newspaper reporters and editors would find their opinion newsworthy.  And they were right.

 

In neither the L.A. Times Op/Ed nor the Sputnik piece was there any mention that Slager would have been loathe to attempt planting evidence given that he knew Feidin Santana was there filming him.  This has been known since the day after the video surfaced when Santana told  the Wall Street Journal about it April 9, 2015.

“I saw them. I had this all on my phone. Did they know I was there? Of course they knew it.”  – WSJ 4/9/15 ‘How Feidin Santana Caught South Carolina Shooting on Video’ by Valerie Bauerlein

That same day, April 9, Santana told the NBC Today Show the same thing.

Santana said he “definitely” believes Slager saw him when, at one point in the video, he looked his way. – today.com by Eun Kyung Kim

Had not Stinson and Hansford followed the pre-trial motions during which there was a court fight October 24 over whether SLED officers Angela Peterson and Lt. Charles Ghent had purposefully lied to Slager’s original attorney David Aylor?  Slager knew Santana was there filming him and his first attorney, David Aylor, had requested to see the video multiple times and was told by Peterson and Ghent that none existed.  Slager knew he had been filmed and wanted to see the video to refresh his memory of the event prior to giving his statement to SLED.

 

Moreover, Feidin Santana the state’s only eyewitness, testified at trial that Slager knew he was there filming him. In the video you can hear Santana exclaim “Oh, shit,” at the instant Slager is looking directly at him still holding the Taser. Thirteen seconds later Slager is seen momentarily dropping the Taser near Scott’s body. It’s impossible to stage a crime scene if someone is there documenting you do it. When questioned on day 2 of the trial on November 4, Santana testified:

I don’t know if he recognized me, but he did saw me and I can show you that in my video as well.  . . .  But when I was there, when I got closer to Walter Scott, yes he saw me. . . . That’s when he went back and went back over there toward where Walter Scott was with the other officer. . . . I don’t know if he saw me right after he shot, after he shoot but he saw me there after he after I was let’s say walking over there to Walter Scott.  . . . But he bend down to pick up something. (audio available upon request)

As a press critic I haven’t seen an instance of prosecutorial misconduct to match Solicitor Wilson’s claim of staging the crime scene since the 2006 Duke lacrosse rape case that got prosecutor Mike Nifong disbarred.  I fully expect to see a documentary on the Slager trial like “Fantastic Lies” that aired  a decade later, March 13, on ESPN about the similar media frenzy and distortion of the facts that took place in that case. Only next time the first impression left by watching the bystander video will replace the false allegations made by the witness Crystal Mangum in the Duke case.

Dick Griest  is a Press Critic out of Nashville, Home of the First Amendment Center

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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