Inside the Case: South Carolina Killing of Walter Scott , Durst, Bullock

Inside the Case: South Carolina Killing of Walter Scott , Durst, Bullock


South Carolina Killing of Walter Scott

Michael Slager

Michael Slager

As a criminal defense attorney for over two decades, I’ve had countless clients complain that police officers have embellished, outright lied, or even planted evidence on them. Yet there is also a resigned cynicism, a belief that even though they’ve been wronged, no one will believe them, that those who have the power to do anything about it – judges, juries – will always side with law enforcement. “Who’s going to believe me when a cop says otherwise?”

That may be changing.

The video of now-disgraced South Carolina police officer Michael Slager killing an unarmed Walter Scott by shooting him multiple times in the back is everywhere. Now, enhanced elements of the video reveal an especially damning bit of evidence. It appears that after Slager fired the fatal shots, he picked up the Taser from the site of the original scuffle, brought it over to where Scott lay dying, and dropped it on the ground next to him.

Why does this detail matter so much? Several reasons. It represents the integrity of the crime scene being compromised, something a law enforcement officer would know is vital to investigators. But what’s potentially more important to those that would sue or prosecute Slager than the manufacturing of false evidence is the consciousness of guilt that this conduct reveals. It is Slager’s activity after the shooting that will contribute to his undoing. (Of course, his inactivity – failing to provide even modest lifesaving measures as Scott lay dying, won’t help either.)

In the meantime, Slager is turning to an innovative new vehicle to address his defense needs: Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding has raised millions of dollars for countless projects. It’s the process of funding a project or cause through many small donations from lots and lots of people typically through the Internet.

Crowdfunding is the newest “Court of Public Opinion,” and if you think about it, really provides you with the verdict in real time. People vote with their wallets. It is a foregone conclusion that lawyers involved in jury selection on this case will inquire about whether prospective jurors have contributed to this, or other, crowdfunding ventures. Knowing where people invest their hard-earned money is a great way to assess their true attitudes towards key issues.



Robert Durst extradition issue postponed until Thursday

The Robert Durst show has been extended in New Orleans and will not be opening in Los Angeles anytime soon. The 71 year-old multi-millionaire real estate heir from New York is the star of what many believe is the next “trial of the century.”

On Wednesday, Durst was indicted on gun charges in Louisiana. This will likely delay his extradition to California to face murder charges. An indictment also avoids a Preliminary Hearing, which means DeGuerin will NOT get a chance to cross examine witnesses there prior to a jury trial.

The real beneficiary of this delay is the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. Durst waived extradition to California. His lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, wants to get to Los Angeles as quickly as possible to fight the murder charge. The longer he delay the more time LA County prosecutors have to prepare.



Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock Stalking Case: He’s Lucky to Be Alive

Academy award winning actress Sandra Bullock locked herself in a closet and called 911 when she found her stalker insider her house last June. Today, Joshua James Corbett was inside a Los Angeles courtroom for a preliminary hearing on charges of burglary and stalking.

It must have been a terrifying experience for Bullock.

Prosecutors played the 911 call Bullock made from the closet. You can hear the terror and fear in her voice as she talked with the dispatcher. The hearing was to determine with there’s enough evidence to go to trial. Along with the 911 call, an officer read from a book Corbett had with him when he was arrested. He writes about how he loves Bullock and wants to have sex with her.

Police say Corbett jumped the fence surrounding Bullock’s house and broke in through a locked door.

Celebrity stalking cases garner the most attention but make up a small number of the cases. Most are connected to domestic violence, cyberstalking or workplace stalking.

California passed stalking laws in 1990. It was in response to two separate cases where actresses were murdered by obsessed fans who were stalking them, and can be found in California Penal Code section 646.9.

In 1993, the California legislature amended Penal Code 646.9 to make the law significantly harsher. The new law expanded the definition of behavior that would qualify as criminal stalking and increased the potential penalties.

California’s current anti-stalking laws prohibits:

  1. Following or harassing another person, and
  2. Threatening that person, with the intent of
  3. Placing him/her in fear for his/her safety … or in fear for the safety of his/her immediate family.

What’s fairly obvious in looking at Corbett’s behavior is that he is deeply disturbed, and this case illustrates the tension that the justice system must deal with routinely: How do we balance the scales between punishment, and much-needed rehabilitation? If people aren’t committed to changing, they won’t, and mentally ill people aren’t likely to be self-directed in this regard.

In the meantime, Corbett can count his blessings and consider himself lucky to be alive. As far as the law is concerned, a person’s home is their castle, and they have no duty to retreat there. This means that if Bullock had responded with a .44 Magnum (the most powerful handgun in the world, according to Dirty Harry) instead of a call to 9-1-1, she would have been well within her rights to do so.

Darren Kavinoky
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