Jurors to decide if Uber driver killed passenger in self-defense

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DENVER — The fate of Uber driver Michael Hancock is now in the hands of a jury. Closing arguments ended at 5:40 p.m. Tuesday and the jury will start deliberating the first-degree murder case Wednesday morning.

Did Hancock shoot his passenger in self-defense, or was it first-degree murder with the intent to kill? That is the question a 12-person jury must answer.

During closing arguments of the trial, the prosecution used Hancock’s own words on the stand against him. They say instead of rendering aid after the shooting, “he fixed the crime scene.” On Monday morning, Hancock admitted on the stand he moved a 12 inch knife that is typically kept under the driver’s seat into his passenger, Hyun Soo Kim’s hand after Hancock shot him. Hancock said he did that to “see if he was still alive and could grasp it.” Prosecutors said “the only reason you would push a knife into someone’s hand is to put fingerprints on it.”

During the course of the trial, evidence was presented by the prosecution that Kim did not initially get out of the Uber at the destination (it was a 2-mile ride) and instead the Uber ride spanned more than 70 miles in and around Denver.

On the stand, Hancock told the jury Kim changed his mind about the destination and pulled up Google Maps. Hancock said he got lost. He said Kim was seated in the front passenger seat and touched his leg three times during the ride. He said Kim was acting “flirtatious” toward him. But he says when he threatened to pull the car over and end the ride, he was attacked. That happened near University and Interstate 25 at 2:45 a.m. on the morning of June 1, 2018.

Prosecutors allege Kim passed out during the ride and Hancock drove around for 70 miles to rack up the Uber fee and get more money. Their theory is that Kim woke up, angry that he wasn’t dropped off and that’s when he hit Hancock. They say the small bruise to the left side of Hancock’s face does not prove reasonable fear and that his life was not in imminent danger. They say killing Kim was a choice Hancock made. Prosecutors say Hancock deliberately pulled the trigger 10 times. Prosecutors say six bullets struck Kim and he died on the scene.

Meanwhile, the defense argues Hancock is not a violent person. They say Hancock first tried to defuse the situation verbally, then physically with pushing back and finally — in a last attempt — he used the gun, legally registered to him, to stop the threat. The defense says Hancock got out of the car as it was still moving, but Kim was pulling his dreadlocks as Hancock’s feet were outside the car. The defense team says Hancock got out of the car on I-25 and University and fired 10 rounds at Kim. The defense says you can stand your ground and you can legally protect yourself.

Defense attorneys urged the jury to reflect on the testimony of their key witness. That witness testified to say she was driving on northbound I-25 and saw a car driving erratically. She pulled over and says she saw a man punching the driver of the car. The defense told the jury that this is a clear case of self-defense.

Hancock is facing a first-degree murder charge for the death of Kim. It is possible the jury could find Hancock guilty of a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

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