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Slager trial Day 8: Attorneys clash over whether witness can testify as an expert

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Grace Beahm/Post and Courier via Pool
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Bill Williams is allowed to testify as a scene analysis, computer technology and video syncing expert, after spending four hours proving his expertise to the judge. Williams is expected to be the last person prosecutors will call to testify in the trial of Michael Slager. The former North Charleston cop is on trial for murder for the shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott. The April 2015 incident was captured on cell phone video by a bystander.

After calling 30 people to testify state prosecutors were expected to rest. They called family and friends of Scott, the man who filmed the video, multiple current and former law enforcement personnel and experts.   If Slager is convicted he faces a prison sentence of 30 years to life.

Williams, who said he was largely self-taught, used photo and video enhancement techniques to create a timeline of evidence. Judge Clifton Newman found William’s background as an expert in multiple different areas in multiple jurisdictions questionable.

“I can just imagine seeing this case again before the Supreme Court and them saying who is this expert?”

Prosecutors had Williams go into detail about how many cases he has testified in multiple jurisdictions on a wide range of issues. But in a 2010 the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the trial court erred in qualifying Williams as an expert on cruise control for a case about a car accident.

In the Slager case Williams used some of his own measurements, video and audio, and animation to re-create the crime.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson cited a case law to make a final plea to admit Williams as an expert after hours of questioning.

“Demonstrations don’t have to be exact in every detail but that important elements must be identical or very similar to scenes described in other testimony or evidence presented,” she said.

That is part of what concerned Defense Attorney Donald McCune.

“If we are going to show them [jury] something needs to be fair and accurate representation.”

In the end the judge agreed to let him testify as an expert in scene analysis, computer technology and re-creation. But the judge said he will not be able to offer expert testimony related to Tasers.

Earlier in the day the defense questioned the expertise during cross examination of a video expert from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Anthony Imel. Defense Attorney Andy Savage questioned the way why a select number of images shown to the jury. Imel then started to show the jury the video frame by frame.

Savage also questioned the way Imel played the video in slow motion, asserting that it didn’t give the jury an accurate representation of real time so they can understand how fast the officer had to respond.

“I am one of the most senior examiners in the FBI,” Imel said. “I handle most of the large cases that come across our desk to include Boston bombing, the ISIS videos, the Pulse Club videos, the stabbing at the Mall of America. There is no person in the FBI within my capacity that would be able to do this above and beyond what I do.”

Savage had a problem with the fact that he didn’t include all images in sequential order.

The jury saw the cell phone video at the center of this case multiple times this morning. The original version was played, a slow motion version was played and the FBI expert went through frame by frame.

At issue is what happened off camera. The defense contends Scott grabbed Slager’s Taser during a struggle on the ground and was facing the officer with the stun gun in hand. The prosecution is using what Slager didn’t tell investigators to rebut that narrative. They keep pointing to the fact that Slager never mentioned he was hit with a Taser, kicked or punched during the tussle prior to the shooting.