David Aylor’s Deep Hole Just Got Deeper (Video Update!)

Following his agreement to be interviewed about his very public announcement that he was no longer Michael Slager’s lawyer, David Aylor was taken to task for his “artful” attempt to claim he wasn’t condemning his client while throwing him under the bus.  A few lawyers didn’t grasp why this wasn’t cool, but most found the conduct outrageous.

Bad enough? Sure, but as subsequent reports demonstrate, it was only the beginning.

SLED agents arrived at the scene at 10:29 a.m. April 4, about 51 minutes after Patrolman 1st Class Michael Slager fatally shot Scott in the back as Scott ran away. They later asked Slager to answer some questions.

“When our investigators spoke with … Slager at the scene, he said he was represented by an attorney,” SLED spokesman Thom Berry said Tuesday. “We stopped questioning him and contacted his attorney.”

“SLED” stands for State Law Enforcement Division, and to their credit, they were on the scene quickly and, when Slager invoked his right to counsel, honored that right.  Rather than try to circumvent Slager’s invocation, they went to his lawyer, David Aylor, who had been retained about an hour after the shooting, apparently by the Southern State Police Benevolent Association.

After Slager deflected their request, the agents got in touch with his lawyer, David Aylor, who said he would make the officer available for an interview three days later, on April 7, Berry said.

The agents’ interview with Slager that started that morning at Aylor’s office was a lengthy one, Berry said.

“The interview continued into the afternoon,” he said. “Slager was arrested following the interview.”

This was previously unknown, and soon after Slager’s arrest, the video hit the air and Aylor, loudly and publicly, announced that he no longer represented Slager.  While it was bad enough that Aylor chose to make an announcement, immediately after revelation of the video, that he was fleeing Slager’s side, and going out of his way to make clear (while pretending not to) that it was the product of the video, no one knew that the only thing he did as Slager’s lawyer, aside from an insipid statement to the media, was let SLED interrogate his client for hours and hours. And then he quit.

What was he thinking?

While Aylor may well have been unaware of the video at the time he decided to let his client be interrogated, although that’s not necessarily the case, he should have certainly been aware that his client shot Walter Scott in the back.

In the back.  That’s a problem, even for a cop. That’s a problem that should have made alarms go off, raised red flags, whatever trite metaphor floats your boat. In the frigging back.  Even a good kill doesn’t avoid suspicion when the bullets enter a body through the back.

And yet, Aylor agreed to allow his client to be interrogated.  Not just interrogated, but interrogated for hours.  The questioning started in the morning and didn’t end until the afternoon, when Slager was arrested.  For those who don’t practice criminal defense, this needs to be made clear: you don’t let this happen. You don’t agree to allow your client to be interrogated. You just say no.

Upon the conclusion of the interrogation with Aylor’s blessing, two things happened. Cuffs were slapped on Slager, and Aylor cut and ran to his computer, where he could put his announcement online that he was no longer Slager’s lawyer, and take calls for interviews from interested websites.

Not only did Aylor throw Slager under the bus in the course of shedding a client who was about to make him look awful in the eyes of the public, but he did so after making one of the most incomprehensible tactical moves imaginable.  Sure, interrogate the suspect all you want. What could possibly go wrong?

There is a question of whether the interrogation would  change things.  On the one hand, Slager was a cop, and as such might anticipate an interrogation by the bros as being a friendly affair and one he could handle deftly, with a wink and the incantation of the “I feared for my life” excuse.  Doesn’t that always do the trick?

And then there was the video, which is so damning, so clear, so undeniable, that it may well be that no interrogation or refusal thereof could change the reality that Slager was going down for the kill.  After all, a refusal to allow Slager to answer questions would not have made the video disappear, right?

All of this is true, and in the end may not alter the course of Slager’s prosecution.  Yet, Slager’s new lawyer, Andy Savage, is now saddled with whatever statements Slager made to the SLED investigators, with Aylor’s approval.

To the extent there is a defense, the damage done by the interrogation is obvious.  Whatever tack Slager used, it will come back to smack him in the face should the defense try to take a different approach. If Slager takes the stand, he will be impeached by his own words.  Allowing this interrogation locks the defense into a narrative from which there is no easy escape.

Many will not shed a tear at this, given that Slager’s conduct is reprehensible.  That may be, but even Slager deserves a competent defense, leaving Aylor’s decision to allow his client to be interrogated for hours utterly incomprehensible.

And then he quit.  And then he announced that he quit. And then he made it undeniably clear that his quitting came after a video damned his client as guilty of murdering Walter Scott by shooting him in the back and planting a Taser.

Much as it was clear that Aylor’s withdrawal came after the video, it was previously unknown that it came after he also let his client dig himself into an incomprehensible hole. Aylor, on the other hand, was deep in a hole of his own after he shot his mouth off, and with this bit of new information, his hole just got deeper.

Update:  As if bad couldn’t get any worse, Aylor is back on the tube.  Note his cautionary warning, at about 1:30, about letting the client be questioned.

Can this hole get any deeper?

H/T Turk


21 thoughts on “David Aylor’s Deep Hole Just Got Deeper (Video Update!)

  1. Turk

    he should have certainly been aware that his client shot Walter Scott in the back.

    It’s possible he didn’t know, and might not have had any preliminary autopsy results.

    Which would mean, of course, that Aylor’s conduct is equally bad in allowing for an interrogation if he didn’t know what the forensics looked like.

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s possible, but even a lying client isn’t likely to ignore that detail, as it’s too obvious and provable. It’s the focus of his excuses, rather than a denied fact.

      1. N

        Perhaps I am mistaken, but wasn’t there some delay between the incident and the video being turned over to investigators?

        It is possible that Aylor knew that his client had shot a man in the back, but didn’t know about the planting of the taser. He might have thought that this meant he could “sell” the wink-and-a-nod, “I feared for my life” defense.

        1. SHG Post author

          It’s possible, but then, that’s why you figure out what’s going to bury your client before you allow him to commit suicide.

  2. Rich

    Just speaking as a layman, I am astonished that Aylor dropped a high profile case like this. I cannot fathom what he thought the downside would be for him.

    1. Tim Knowles

      It’s what happens when an attorney cares too much about his reputation. He doesn’t want to be the best law firm in Charleston, just the most popular, and he’ll throw a single client under the bus to stay popular. Maybe he thought his police department and DA friends wouldn’t like him anymore, or that it would hurt his ability to get African-American clients in the future, or that readers of the city paper wouldn’t vote for his firm anymore.

  3. PDB

    “David Aylor was taken to task”
    Nice use of the passive voice here, very police department-like…unless you were trying be ironic.

  4. Reed

    At the risk of giving the impression that I side at all with Aylor, aren’t all these discussions about his withdrawal omitting a view possibilities? First, every set of disciplinary rules that I have seen require an attorney’s withdrawal if he learns that his client has or is using his attorney’s counsel to commit criminal conduct or fraud. That could have been at issue for Aylor. And, if so, he is still prohibited from abandoning his responsibilities regarding confidentiality. So, we don’t get an explanation from Aylor.
    Second, every set of rules that I have seen also establish that its the client that makes the final decision as to the strategy his representative is to implement. Obviously arrogant cop, backed almost immediately by a a self-righteously aggressive “union”–who, btw, was actually the party that selected Aylor….hmm, seems to me that the client (emboldened by his “dug-out”) very likely insisted on time with his boys in a “one-on-one”–time even his lawyer could have insisted he NOT give. Third, aahh, you think maybe the client lied to his attorney? Or at least withheld critical information that made it impossible for a functional lawyer-client relationship to develop? If so, again, all the rules that I have seen impose upon Aylor a responsibility to address that and if he can’t–if the relationship is so dysfunctional as to make it impossible for Aylor to provide adequate assistance, he absolutely can withdraw. And, again, we don’t get an explanation for that.

    1. SHG Post author

      I toyed with whether to trash your comment, as it’s so mind-numbingly inaccurate that I fear some non-lawyer will mistakenly think you have a clue what your talking about and be rendered a blithering idiot for having read it. Nonetheless, I post and will try to correct.

      1. No. No, no, no. The attorney cannot be complicit in the commission of a crime, put a witness on the stand to commit perjury or conceal a future crime. But there was absolutely nothing involved in this case at this stage that would implicate Aylor’s involvement in any crime by Slager whatsoever.

      2. No. No, no, no. Strategic decisions, such as whether to plead guilty or not, belong to the client. Tactical decisions belong to the attorney. Aside from a few decisions relegated to the client by law (right to testify, for example), the question of how to proceed belongs entirely to the lawyer. These are tactical, not strategic. Knowing the difference matters.

      3. No. No, no, no. Clients lie to their lawyers all the time. It’s part of the job and no big deal. That said, Aylor had no ethical duty to remain on the case, though it’s a wussy CDL who runs just because his client wasn’t truthful. But that doesn’t give rise to publicly announcing his withdrawal, revealing confidences and throwing your client under the bus in the process.

      Next time you write about your ideas of what the law is, I will trash your comment. Don’t do it. You aren’t entitled to make people stupider. At least not here. Try reddit.

      1. Not Jim Ardis

        Regarding number 3, I could forgive the lawyer if (and this assumes the other screwups didn’t happen) if he saw exactly what his client was being charged with and said “I’m not sure I am qualified to handle a case on this level. You need someone that has handled a murder defense before.”

        But then, that isn’t what happened. Like the DOMA Supreme Court hearing, this guy thought this client would make him look bad, so he dumped him.

        A shame that “ineffective counsel” can’t be used to get the interrogation tossed.

        1. SHG Post author

          In fairness, we don’t know for sure what went through Aylor’s head when he decided to withdraw as Slager’s lawyer. But what we do have are his words, and his words clearly give the undeniable impression that his withdrawal was due to the video inculpating his client in a murder. That’s why his public announcement and subsequent interview matter. Not because it’s necessarily true, but because it conveys a clear message.

      2. Reed

        Its not about the lie, its about a lawyer-client relationship that is so non-functioning as to render the representation impossible. You still skirted the possible scenario.

    2. Andrew

      I can understand why SHG struggled with your comment. It’s not that your questions weren’t fine, but that you felt compelled to insert your non-lawyer, seriously inaccurate “sense” of the law into them.

      Had you raised the points/questions without trying to stick your mistaken understanding of law in the middle, I doubt he would have had a problem. But by writing “every set of [x] that I have seen” with a gross misunderstanding of law following, your comment really is dangerously misleading.

  5. John Barleycorn

    “Trial Tuesdays”

    You should have thought of that one esteemed one.

    I am thinking David has John Edwards Hair envy but figured instead of going corporate right out of the gate he would
    become a servant of the people to launch his first campaign after his firm moped up “representing” all the people worth representing in the Carolina’s.

    Who knows he might still pull it off if he can figure out how to write his “I used to represent criminals, but now I _________. ” speech.

    1. Turk

      Who knows he might still pull it off if he can figure out how to write his “I used to represent criminals, but now I _________. ” speech.

      That gig belongs to Jamie “Flaming Sledgehammer” Casino, from nearby Atlanta.

      Must be something in the southern waters.

  6. David Woycechowsky

    Question, which, of course, you do not have to answer and which I am asking out of idle curiosity, rather than a burning desire to practice criminal defense:

    I kind of take it from your post that the good criminal defense lawyer should not agree to any type of interrogation, but, rather, stand on the Fifth pre-trial. This seemed to work relatively well for Johannes Mehserle, for example. It certainly worked relatively well for the Ramseys. Is that a decent take-away from what you are saying, or are there circumstances where it is good to allow a pre-arrest interrogation?

    1. SHG Post author

      Short answer is that every decision is tactical, and the default is always don’t talk unless and until a tactical decision can be made with sufficient confidence that engaging in interrogation is more beneficial than not. This will very rarely be the case, and the decision can never be confidently made without full grasp of facts, evidence any other relevant information.

  7. Terrapin

    Aylor’s strategy was brilliant. Intentionally ineffective assistance of counsel. Ahhh, but for the videotape.

Comments are closed.