DENVER — The fate of Uber driver Michael Hancock hangs in the balance as a jury deliberates whether he acted in self-defense or killed his passenger in cold blood.
The jury began deliberations at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. It did not reach a verdict as of 5 p.m.
Hancock’s defense team is looking for a full acquittal, while the prosecution is seeking a first-degree murder conviction.
A 12-person jury is working to determine if Hancock acted in self-defense on the morning of June 1, 2018, when he shot and killed his Uber passenger, Hyun Soo Kim, or if he’s guilty of murder.
A first-degree murder conviction requires the defendant deliberately and intentionally carried out the killing whereas second-degree murder occurs in the spur of the moment.
“The difference between first-degree murder, which is murder after deliberation, and second-degree murder is that deliberative process,” attorney Chris Decker said.
Decker is not involved in the case but provided his expert opinion to FOX31 and Channel 2.
Prosecutors want jurors to focus on the seconds before the shooting. Hancock testified on Monday that he does not keep his gun loaded. Prosecutors say when he grabbed his semi-automatic Ruger from the holster, he deliberately had to load the gun, rack the slide and “had to pull the trigger 10 deliberate times.”
Evidence shows Hancock shot Kim while standing outside the vehicle.
But Hancock’s defense counsel wants the jury to find that their client acted in self-defense and had no other way to stop the threat than to shoot. Hancock said Kim was attacking him while he was driving in a “flurry of punches.”
“The defense is hoping the jury will find that the driver was legally justified in using lethal force to defend himself from what he reasonably believed was an imminent and serious threat to his health or safety,” Decker said.
But Decker says Hancock’s testimony may end up costing him the case. When Hancock was called to the stand, he admitted to moving a crucial piece of evidence, saying he “put the knife in his (Kim’s) hand to see if he was still alive and could grab it.”
“The defendant, having moved a weapon to the decedent, is somewhat concerning and I think is probably going to be a big hurdle for the jury to understand. However, if the defense can explain, ‘Look, that was just what he was doing afterwards and the real legal focus should be the time of the shooting. Was he justified? Did he reasonably fear for his imminent safety?’ Then indeed he could be acquitted of all charges,” Decker said.