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Murder trial underway for Uber driver accused of killing passenger

Michael Hancock, 31, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Hyun Kim last year on Interstate 25.

DENVER — Prosecutors began calling witnesses Tuesday morning in the trial of the Uber driver accused of shooting and killing a passenger during an in-app ride last year. 

That Uber driver, Michael Hancock, 31, is accused of shooting and killing 45-year-old Hyun Kim on Interstate 25 near the University Boulevard exit in June 2018.

RELATED: Judge rules there's enough evidence to move forward with Uber driver first degree murder trial

Hancock, sitting with his attorneys and wearing a suit and tie, remained emotionless for much of the morning testimony, but did speak to his lawyer several times. 

Hancock's family sat behind the defense table, Kim's family behind the prosecutors. Both sides were emotional throughout the first day of testimony. 

During opening statements earlier in the morning, prosecutors and the defense painted different pictures of Hancock.

Prosecutor Philip Reinert told a jury before 9 a.m. at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse that Hancock is guilty of murder in the first degree, after shooting his passenger in the back from outside the car. He argued this was not a case of self-defense.

Hancocks's defense, however, described a family man who worked at a youth home mentoring young men. Defense attorney Johnna Stuart said Hancock, whose family calls him "Mikey," had worked for Uber for four years and chose to drive at night so he wouldn't miss time with his family. 

The defense also spoke about two witness accounts, one from a woman who said she saw a man hitting the driver of a car, "punching him in the face."

Also during opening statements, the defense played a 911 call from the second witness, who pulled up to the scene after seeing Hancock's car drive into the median. In that call, Hancock is heard saying he tried not to hurt the passenger but he (Kim) was attacking him, punching him in the face and he didn't know what to do.

In that same 911 call, Hancock asked police to "please hurry" because he (Kim) could live.

Prosecutors allege Hancock fired 10 shots at close range, striking Kim six times, including once in the chest and back, according to an autopsy report 

RELATED: Parents of Uber driver accused of shooting, killing passenger say he was defending himself

Hancock's defense team has previously argued he fired shots after Kim attacked him. Kim's blood alcohol was nearly four times the legal limit of alcohol intoxication for driving.

The defense pointed out Hancock had swelling above his left eye, an abrasion on his inner lower lip and redness near his collarbone. The victim had bruises on his right hand near his knuckles, according to court testimony.

After much of the morning testimony was spent identifying and questioning data being used as evidence in the case, prosecutors spent the afternoon laying out the crime scene for jurors. 

Denver police officer Stephan Hansen, one of the first to arrive to the scene, testified to hearing multiple shots over 4-6 seconds while he was performing a nearby traffic stop.

Hansen said after Hancock was detained at the scene, two officers pulled Kim out of the car. Kim was "slightly" breathing, Hansen said, and he performed CPR until medics arrived. 

Hansen also said he found cigarettes and a wallet in Kim's pocket; Hancock had told police Kim had something in his pocket he was reaching for. 

During cross-examination, Hansen said Hancock was cooperative with officers.

Denver crime scene investigator Ross Benik presented crime scene photos and evidence like jury bullet casings and a knife taken from Hancock's car as well. It's unclear what role the knife played in the incident.

Denver District Court Judge Shelley Ilene Gilman is presiding over the case, which is scheduled to last two weeks.

Hancock pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the case last November. He is not related to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

RELATED: Uber driver enters not guilty plea in the shooting death of a passenger

RELATED: Driver allegedly shot, killed passenger during in-app ride, Uber confirms

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