WASHINGTON — A historic trial is finally underway at the federal courthouse here. A D.C. police officer is on trial on a charge of murder while on duty for the first time anyone can remember.
On Wednesday, 12 jurors finally started hearing evidence.
Officer Terence Sutton is charged with second-degree murder in the 2020 death of Karon Hylton Brown, 20, during a police chase. Sutton's supervisor, Lt. Andrew Zabavsky, on trial with him, is accused of conspiracy to cover up what happened.
With the victim's mother listening, prosecutor Ahmed Muktadir Baset pointed at Officer Sutton and told jurors: "That man right there murdered Karon Hylton Brown. He did it with his police car with conscious disregard of the extreme danger of death or serious bodily injury."
Hylton-Brown's death was caught on body-worn camera video.
Lt. Andrew Zabavsky is accused of conspiring with Sutton to cover up the three-minute-long police pursuit before Hylton-Brown rode his electric scooter in front of an SUV on Kennedy St, NW, and was hit and killed.
Police had chased Hylton Brown on suspicion of riding a scooter on the sidewalk and without a helmet. Police department general orders prohibit the pursuit of suspects for minor traffic offenses.
The young father's death in 2020 touched off days of protests and violent clashes between officers and demonstrators outside the 4th District police station in Northwest D.C., even as the nation grappled with racial justice and the police murder of George Floyd.
"My child was human, he didn't deserve that! He wasn't out here, robbing and stealing, and doing all that, no! He wasn't doing all that!" his mother, Karen Hylton, told WUSA9 on the first anniversary of his death.
The police officers were part of a crime suppression unit, and their lawyers allege that Hylton Brown was in Brightwood Park to retaliate after an earlier dispute.
Hylton Brown "would be alive today," lawyer J. Michael Hannon told jurors, if he'd stopped his moped. "He might have been arrested with a weapon, he might have been arrested with drugs. But he'd be alive."
On the first day of testimony, an investigator for the US Attorney's Office testified about the collected video of police pulling a u-turn after Hylton Brown rode past them at 5th and Kennedy Streets. He was laying the ground for prosecutors to put a number of videos before the jury.
The trial is expected to continue for at least three weeks, possibly past Thanksgiving.
If convicted of second-degree murder, Sutton faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
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