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Scott family attorney: Slager conviction a 'blueprint for success' in civil rights cases

Chris Stewart, Walter Scott Family Attorney

After ex-North Charleston Police officer Michael Slager pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to using excessive force when he shot and killed Walter Scott in April 2015, Scott family attorney Chris Stewart called the conviction "rare."

Rare, Stewart said, because similar cases where a law enforcement officer takes an unarmed person's life typically don't end in convictions for the officer.

There was a different outcome in Slager's case, Stewart says, because everyone involved -- from elected officials to state and federal prosecutors -- was committed to seeing what they felt was justice served.

"I’m proud," Stewart said. "I'm just proud because we don’t get this. We don't get it. ... I'm proud of this team, who actually wanted to get a conviction. "It's about 'Do you want it,' and that's why today is monumental for this family and for civil rights. For once justice came out."

From Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, to former Governor Nikki Haley, to North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers, to the community as a whole, Stewart praised them for stepping forward and working to get justice for Walter Scott.

"The Garners, the Blands, the Rice family, they didn't get this type of justice that we got today," Stewart said. "So it is a phenomenal job by all of the teams involved. It is a phenomenal job by (Scott's) family for staying strong."

Stewart continually heaped praise on Scott's family.

"I'm proud," Stewart said. "We've followed their lead, and that's how we've gotten here.

Stewart praised the Charleston community, as well, pointing out the flaws in the often violent, destructive demonstrations following officer-involved shootings in communities elsewhere.

"You'll see rage a lot of times," Stewart said. "But rage doesn’t work. ... It’s like a wildfire. It burns everything down, and nothing's left. Constant determination and holding people accountable is what works. ... It's a phenomenal job by this community for holding it together, and knowing we're going to get justice in the end. "

Stewart added, "When you care more about the victim and not a hashtag, or getting on social media or trying to gain support for whatever your mission is, and you care more about the victim and their family, you'll get results like this. ... Some people would just rather watch it burn. We're not going to play that game."

Stewart said you could "hear a pin drop" when Michael Slager pleaded guilty. He says he hopes the way it all played out will be a blueprint for future successes for civil rights cases.

"There is no war on police, which is a theme we keep hearing. There’s a war on keeping all of us separated," Stewart said. "We won't keep feeding into hate distancing police officers from the community, because no person with a reasonable mind believes every officer is evil and wants to kill somebody. That's just absolutely ridiculous. All we want is accountability ... Once that starts happening, all of this will go away."

Looking ahead to Slager's sentencing, Stewart said he and the Scott family have full confidence in Judge David Norton to hand down what they feel is an appropriate punishment for Slager.

"There's absolutely no way that a judge of that experience and that credibility would give him something light when he just admitted he shot a man five times in the back running away," Stewart said. "That's losing faith in the determination we've put forward so far. We’re not worried about that."

"We know what justice looks like," Stewart added. "It doesn't look like a big settlement check. It looks like today. That's what it is. You can write whatever check you want, but you're not giving families justice. And today was a step toward justice."



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