Ex-South Carolina cop's shooting of motorist was murder: judge

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That plea put Slager's fate in the hands of U.S. District Judge David Norton, who was tasked with determining whether the ex-cop was guilty of manslaughter or murder - and what sentence he should serve for either offense.

Slager stopped the vehicle Scott was driving for a broken rear brake light in North Charleston in April 2015.

The judge agreed with prosecutors who argued at Slager's sentencing hearing this week that he showed malice and calculation in the April 2015 shooting.

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"There's nothing in Michael Slager's background, from birth to today, of any racial animus or any harassment of minority members of the community", his attorney Andy Savage said, countering assertions that the officer acted violently because Scott was black. He said he shot the 50-year-old black motorist in self-defense after Scott tried to grab his Taser. The former North Charleston police officer killed Scott following a traffic stop turned chase two years ago.

In court on Thursday, members of Scott's family offered forgiveness to Slager but said their pain had not diminished. Prosecutors think it's murder, making Slager eligible for a life sentence. When Slager goes back to his patrol auto, Scott opens the door and runs. Scott was hit five times in the back. A bystander caught the shooting on video.

This week, federal prosecutors and Slager's lawyers have called witnesses to testify about technical aspects of the case, including what happened to Slager's stun gun before the shooting.

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Slager theoretically could have received a life sentence, but most legal observers had expected a sentence in the 12-to 15-year range if Norton had categorized the crime as voluntary manslaughter.

Scott's older brother, Anthony, told the court he'd become depressed after the shooting and that he was probably the last in his family to be able to forgive Slager. Slager's claim that Scott tried to use the Taser against the officer during the ordeal was contradicted by the video. Slager contends he was securing the weapon. And, Norton said, Slager obstructed justice by his inaccurate statements to law enforcement after the shooting.

Slager pleaded not guilty, and his attorney said at trial previous year that his client feared for his life. The state murder charge was dropped as part of Slager's federal plea deal.

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Officials in North Charleston reached a $6.5 million settlement with Scott's family in 2015.

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