CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Jurors at a former policeman's murder trial on Friday viewed a cellphone video that stunned the nation, showing officer Michael Slager firing eight shots at the back of an unarmed black man who was running away.
Slager's defense team did not want the jury to see the video, made by a bystander who pressed record on his cellphone after spotting the white North Charleston policeman chasing after Walter Scott.
Feidin Santana was already late to work that day in April 2015, but he moved closer and kept his hand steady as Scott fell to the ground.
"For some reason I decided to use my phone to record and prevent something that might happen," the 25-year-old barber testified. "It was something I will never forget."
Slager's defense had sought to keep the video out of the trial, but didn't object after Santana took the stand. The defense did ask that the jury be instructed that the proper perspective to consider the action would be from the perspective of the officer. They also wanted the judge to prevent the video from being shown in slow-motion.
Judge Clifton Newman denied both requests, saying "I don't seek to control the manner in which the state presents its evidence."
Slager, who was fired from the force and charged with murder after the video surfaced, faces 30 years to life if convicted.
Santana testified that he was talking with a friend on his cellphone and walking to work when he suddenly saw a black man running toward him.
"A few seconds later I saw a second person -- an officer -- chasing the guy," Santana said. "I froze because I didn't know what was going on," he recalled.
Then, as the situation unfolded, he decided to press record and approached a fence around the grassy area where Slager and Scott briefly wrestled on the ground, before Scott broke free and ran.
"I continued hearing an electric sound," Santana said. Scott "just kept trying to get away from the Taser I was hearing. I didn't know if it was a Taser. It was just electric."
The defense says the two men fought over the Taser, but Santana said he never saw it in Scott's hands, and never saw Scott on top of the officer. He said Scott got away and began running before he was shot down.
Speaking outside court Thursday after the trial began, an attorney for Scott's family said they aren't worried that the jury is comprised of 11 white people and one black man.
"All you need in this case is everything all juries have: two eyes and a brain. It doesn't matter what color they are, because they have eyes that can see that videotape," said their attorney, Chris Stewart.
"That jury is intense — watching everything," Stewart said after the opening day of testimony. "They know there is no explanation at all for shooting at a man eight times while running away."