Debate over witness’ expert qualification grinds state’s case to a halt in Michael Slager trial

Progress in bringing the state’s case against Michael Slager to a close ground to a near halt on Tuesday as prosecutors tried to submit a final witness as an expert.

Bill Williams, by all accounts, is a self-made man who spent decades teaching himself how to write software and stumbled into a career analyzing crash and crime scenes and recreating them with various computer tools because his work gained to respect of his peers. Prosecutors wanted to add Williams as an expert in video analysis and enhancement.

But there were serious questions Tuesday whether Williams is qualified at all to speak on the Slager case or any case after Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman heard one case in which Williams testified was later overruled and others in which he was disqualified as a witness.

Bill Williams spent more than four hours defending his credentials as an expert witness in the fields of video recreation and analysis. Judge Clifton Newman decided late Tuesday afternoon Williams could be an expert in those fields, but forbid him from speaking on Tasers. (Grace Beahm/Post and Courier — Pool photo)

“I can just imagine seeing this case again before the Supreme Court and having to answer ‘who is this expert?’” Newman said at one point in the debate over Williams’ credentials.

The debate over Williams began at 11:30 a.m. once the jury was dismissed for lunch. It was still going on at 3 p.m. as Solicitor Scarlett Wilson asked to display Williams’ research into the case.

The jury has not returned to the courtroom since.

At 3 p.m., Newman allowed Williams to make his presentation to the court on his work in the case, which amounted to a comparison of SLED photographs, videos from a drone above the scene, and his own measurements to place evidence markers as noted by previous investigators.

In the presentation, Williams used a timeline from the the time codes in dash cam and radio traffic to overlay the drone video. He said at times the SLED information did not match his own findings, so he spent time on his hands and knees matching rocks in the yellow brick road off Craig Street to place his evidence markers in the scene recreation.

“I’ve spent way too much time on this whole project. I know all of my work… that none of the processes I have applied to that video changed the fact there are two objects in his hand when he gets out of the car the first time and one object the second time,” Williams said about an hour into questioning.

Defense attorney Andy Savage (left) challenges FBI video analysis expert Anthony Imel on his findings with the Feidin Santana video during testimony on Tuesday morning. (Grace Beahm/Post and Courier — Pool photo)

It was anticipated the state would rest its case today with a short cross-examination of FBI video enhancement expert Anthony Imel and then Williams’ testimony.

But it became clear quickly that the state’s case would last well into the afternoon if not into Wednesday morning, depending on the court’s decision on Williams’ testimony.

Savage said on Monday afternoon before the court recessed for the day his cross-examination of Imel would likely take 30 minutes. That ended up taking more than two hours.