A Colorado Uber driver, who shot his drunk passenger to death along the interstate after she allegedly attacked him, has been found not guilty of murder.
A Denver jury found Michael Hancock, 31, not guilty Thursday of all charges against him in connection with the death of Hyun Kim, 45, after deliberating for about half a day, The Denver Post reports. Hancock shot at Kim 10 times, with six rounds hitting him. He claimed that a very drunk Kim had punched him in the face and tried to grab the wheel of the vehicle.
Hancock, a father of two, was met with cheers and hugs from family and friends as he walked out of the jail a free man Thursday afternoon.
“Justice prevailed. Justice prevailed,” his sister said, according to KUSA.
Hancock’s mother, Stephanie, also told reporters she had never lost faith in her son’s innocence.
“I had no doubt, I had no doubt. I had no doubt. God is faithful,” she said as the family walked to the car, according to KMGH-TV.
But while Hancock’s family rejoiced, the mood for Kim’s family was much more somber. After the verdict was read, his widow cried and pressed her head against the wooden bench in front of her, The Post reports.
The family now plans to file a wrongful death civil suit against Uber.
"The fact remains that the shooting could have been prevented if Uber had enforced one of its cardinal rules: Drivers are not allowed to have a gun in the car,” attorney Francis Patrick Murphy, who is representing Kim's family, said. “Hancock routinely violated this rule and Uber failed to enforce its policy."
Hancock picked up Kim in the early morning hours of June 1, 2018, from a karaoke bar where Kim had been out with friends.
His requested stop was just two miles away but when Hancock took him to the destination, Kim — who had a blood alcohol content level of .308 when the autopsy was performed — never got out. Hancock continued to drive, adding another 70 miles to the fare.
Hancock would later testify in court that Kim refused to get out of the car and had touched his leg inappropriately. Hancock said he clearly expressed that he wasn’t interested, but Kim continued to touch him — even trying to grab the wheel as they drove.
Hancock said he told Kim he was going to drop him off, but Kim became belligerent and began punching him in the face.
That’s when Hancock pulled the car over and tried to get out, his defense team argued in court, according to KUSA. But his attorneys claimed Kim pulled his hair, and Hancock pulled his gun and began shooting at his passenger.
“If you think, or have a strong feeling that he acted in self-defense, then he is not guilty,” defense attorney Johnna Stuart told the jury in her closing argument.
Prosecutors had contended that the physical evidence in the case didn’t support Hancock’s story and said it was more likely that Kim never got out of the car at his requested stop because he had passed out and Hancock decided to add additional money to the fare, The Post reports. They said he may have started an argument when he woke up because he was disoriented and confused, but argued that the incident did not require lethal force.
In a statement to KMGH-TV, the Denver DA’s office said it “was a hard case, and while we respect the jury’s decision, we are disappointed in the outcome.”
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