Emotional testimony is expected as an ex-officer’s conviction ends

CHARLESTON, S. C. – For three days, lawyers representing the federal government and a former South Carolina officer charged in unarmed black motorist in the shooting have presented technical testimony to a judge to consider how much time Michael Butcher must spend in federal prison.

That includes the use of a Butcher, the stun gun, which the former officer says Walter Scott grabbed and turned against him, making Butcher, who is white, to fear for his life and shoot in self-defense, firing five times in his back as he walked away.

On Thursday, lawyers are expected to call friends and family of the two men, who says the judge to the effect Scott’s death and the officer’s arrest have had on their lives. What is known as victim impact testimony is intended to help the court determine that the defendant’s sentence will weigh the personal consequences of a crime has had.

An example of that testimony came Wednesday, when Scott’s youngest son, spoke to the judge, so that he could return to his high school classes. With a photo of his father, Miles Scott said he has had trouble sleeping since the death of his father. He said that he misses watching football with his father and can’t fathom not being able to watch him play the game they both loved.

“I miss my father every day,” Miles Scott said, with tears. “I would like you to condemn the defendant to be the strongest sentence the law allows, because he killed my only father.”

Butcher, 36, pleaded guilty in May to violating of Walter Scott’s civil rights. Federal officials have recommended 10 to nearly 13 years in prison, but his lawyers claim Butcher should face much less time.

Butcher pulled Scott over for a broken tail light in April 2015, and Scott, 50, ran during the stop. After deploying his stun gun, Butcher fired eight bullets at Scott as he ran away, hitting him five times in the back.

Before he hands down Butcher the sentence, U. S. District Judge David Norton must decide whether the April 2015 was shooting second-degree murder or manslaughter. Butcher facing murder charges in the state of the court, but a jury in that case deadlocked last year, and the state charges were dropped as part of his federal plea deal.

Butcher has said that the two men scuffled, and he shot in self-defense after Scott picked up his stun gun. In his closing argument, lawyer Andy Wanted to recognized the shooting was criminal, but repeated the view that his client was protecting himself and feared for his own safety.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Jared Fishman disputed that story.

“Walter Scott never attacked the suspect. Walter Scott was never the suspect, the Taser,” Visser said.

The lawyer depicted a Butcher as a calm, calculated an officer who had not killed Scott in a moment of passion, but he did that deliberately — a characteristic of murder, not manslaughter.

“He was not in a frenzy,” Visser said. “He was not in the throes of passion.”

Visser also said Butcher had changed his story several times what he thought about the shooting, including a faulty witness testimony about Scott charging him with his own stun gun. Visser said that those statements are not supported by the evidence.

“This is not a loss of memory,” Visser said. “This is a concerted, conscious effort to obstruct justice and to cover up his unjustified shooting.”

In an unusual move, lawyers for the Butcher called for the public prosecutor to the stand to question her about their claims that they and federal prosecutors unfair together on the Butcher.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she had worked with the federal prosecutors, but could not remember specific contacts, and had not planned prosecutorial decisions with them.

Also Wednesday, Scott’s mother, Judy Scott, said she was on the phone with her son when he stopped and told him to meet the officer requirements “so there would be no problems.”


Kinnard can be reached at . Read her work on .

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