Update: Michael Slager and Dylann Roof trials

Michael Slager

Slager is being tried for murder in the case of the death of Walter Scott. Last week, the prosecution recreated the crime scene for the jurors. On Thursday, the prosecution called one of its final witnesses Bill Williams, a crime-scene recreation expert, to testify. Williams used a tape measure to illustrate the distance between Walter Scott and Officer Michael Slager as Scott ran from Slager, while Slager fired eight shots at his back. Before resting their case, the prosecution also showed the jury an animated video created by Williams that reenacted the entire series of events, beginning with the traffic stop and ending with the shooting.  

On Thursday and Friday, the defense began presenting their case. They focused on the struggle between Scott and Slager before the shooting, in the hopes of convincing the jury that Slager fired at Scott in self defense. Two of their key witnesses were former Houston police officer David Hillmore, and forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks. Fredericks testified that Slager’s taser cannot be “reliably tracked” throughout the entirety of the video, but that the taser wires did entangle both men as Scott began to run away. 

Dylann Roof

On Thursday, despite pleas from victims’ families, the pastor of Mother Emmanuel AME church and a number of news media outlets, Judge Richard Gergel ruled Dylann Roof’s competency hearing will be closed to the public. The hearing took place on Monday and Tuesday; the results have yet to be announced at the time of publication. 

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for Roof, who shot and killed nine at Mother Emmanuel AME church in June of 2015. On Nov. 7, Judge Gergel granted the defense team’s motion to conduct a competency hearing. The defense’s request has been criticized as a tactic to delay the trial. Victims of the shooting and their families feel they have the right to know what is going on during the competency hearing, which is why they asked the judge to make it open to the public. Judge Gergel will determine whether or not Roof is competent to stand trial. If Gergel determines that he is not, Roof will be sent to a prison psychiatric facility. If Roof is determined to be competent, jury selection will continue on Nov. 28.

Judge Gergel felt that allowing the competency hearing to be open would violate Roof’s Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury. Judge Gergel explained his decision to keep the hearing closed, stating, “We are just trying to do it right. We don’t want to do it over again. We want to do this one time.”  

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