The Tamika Pledger manslaughter trial in Kansas City, Kan., was interrupted Wednesday when some family members of the victims shouted at her while she was testifying.
“Bitch, you killed my daughter!” yelled a relative of 16-year-old Tierra Smith, who died of a brain hemorrhage after being struck by Pledger’s car on Jan. 30, 2015.
“You hit my son, too!” called out a relative of Mark Britt, who testified earlier that he had to learn to walk again after both of his legs were broken when he was hit by Pledger’s car.
Pledger acknowledges striking four people after coming over the crest of a steep hill at 14th Street on eastbound Troup Avenue. She denies she was speeding, although she said on the stand Wednesday that she was not looking at her speedometer. She said the brakes on her car were ineffective.
Prosecutors say her Mercedes-Benz was traveling at least 55 mph in the 20 mph zone and that her reckless behavior constitutes involuntary manslaughter and three counts aggravated battery.
Pledger describes herself as a community activist and former parent teacher association president at Wyandotte High School. She has twice run unsuccessfully for the Unified Government commission.
Two of the young people injured in the incident are cousins of Pledger. Her daughter was also among several people gathered near a school bus stop.
“I thought I hit my daughter,” Pledger said through tears as she testified.
That prompted the outbursts from the gallery, which caused Wyandotte County District Court Judge Michael A. Russell to clear the courtroom. He barred two people from the trial for the rest of the case. The judge and attorneys for both sides interviewed the jurors individually, and all said they could continue to hear the case impartially.
The 2015 incident began when another of Pledger’s cousins, who was living with her at the time, called from the Wyandotte High School bus stop to say that other girls were “trying to jump me” and asked Pledger to come.
Pledger said she calmly and slowly drove to the scene and crested the hill to see two vehicles in the middle of the road. Skid marks indicate she veered into the location where a street fight was taking place.
Pledger said her brakes were ineffective and her car began sliding. A vehicle expert testified earlier Wednesday that he had tested the brakes on the Mercedes after the incident and found they were in working order.
Pledger said she tried to steer away from the vehicles and the people.
“They jumped in front of my vehicle,” she testified.
Pledger said she got out of her car to aid and comfort the victims. She said she saw Britt walking around the scene with one shoe on and the other one in his hand.
“You saw Mark Britt walking around, with two broken legs?” asked prosecutor James Spies. Pledger replied, “Yes.”
The jury will begin deliberations Thursday.