A South Carolina judge said Tuesday that the murder trial of a former North Charleston police officer will be held as scheduled, just a week before a federal trial begins across the street for the man accused of killing nine people in a Charleston church.
“The victims are entitled to have this matter addressed, tried and resolved,” Judge Clifton Newman said as the family of Walter Scott attended the hearing.
Newman is handling the murder trial of Michael Slager, who fatally shot Scott during a traffic stop in April 2015.
The 34-year-old former officer was captured on cellphone video firing eight times as Scott tried to run away, a case that inflamed a national debate about how white officers treat blacks. Scott’s parents and family members attended Tuesday’s hearing.
Meanwhile, a Nov. 7 date has been set for the federal hate crimes trial of Dylann Roof, 22, a white man accused of trying to start a race war by killing nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015.
The shooting of Scott happened first, so it should be tried first, Newman said: “Our date is firm for Oct. 31.”
Andy Savage, one of Slager’s lawyers, also represents several church shooting victims and their families, and appears with them in state and federal court hearings. His colleague Donald McCune told the judge that while the defense would be ready, “there are a lot of moving parts” as the cases approach trial.
Attorneys have said the federal trial is expected to take six weeks. Roof is scheduled in January to be tried on nine murder charges in state court. Both state and federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Roof.
Scarlett Wilson, the prosecutor who will try both Slager and Roof in state court, said she would be ready for Slager’s trial on Oct. 31, but said the federal trial was scheduled “without consultation or consideration” of state trial dates.
Slager also faces separate, federal charges of depriving Scott of his civil rights and other crimes. No trial date has been set for that case.