Tamika Pledger’s silver Mercedes Benz was going at least 55 mph in a 20 mph zone when she crested the hill, “plowed into a group of kids and changed their lives forever,” prosecutor James Spies told a jury Tuesday in her involuntary manslaughter trial in Wyandotte County District Court.
Defense attorney Michael Gunter said Pledger “was on her way simply to stop a fight from happening,” and “as she got to the top of the hill on Troup (Avenue), she couldn’t see there was anybody in the street.”
The jury will be asked to decide the truth of what happened on Jan. 30, 2015, in Kansas City, Kan.
The manslaughter charge stems from the death eight days later of 16-year-old Tierra Smith, one of four people struck by Pledger’s car near 14th Street. She is charged with aggravated battery for injuring the other three.
According to testimony on the first day of evidence, the events arose because of a dispute between two high school girls, one of whom is Pledger’s cousin, Ta’Mya Coulter. Coulter’s antagonist and two other girls attempted to confront her at Wyandotte High School but were ordered by officials to leave the property. They then decided to wait for Coulter at her bus stop near 13th Street and Troup. Coulter spotted them.
Someone called Pledger, who raced to the scene. Prosecutors say she drove in a reckless manner.
The fight was in the middle of the street, and several other people were in the area.
Tobi Wolf, the first Kansas City, Kan., police officer to arrive after the incident, testified she saw Pledger walking around in a panic.
“My car slipped and hit them,” the officer said Pledger told her.
Brandy Glover, Mark Britt and Essence Robinson were the three other people who were struck. Britt has said he heard Pledger say she was sorry and she thought she had killed someone. Robinson has said she heard Pledger say her brakes went out.
Spies, the prosecutor, said in his opening statement he would present a vehicle expert to testify there was nothing wrong with Pledger’s brakes.
Gunter, the defense attorney, suggested in his opening statement the incident would not have happened if the high school had taken some action other than to order the antagonists off school property, or if the school bus driver had allowed Coulter to remain on board as she asked.
Pledger has been described as a local activist and is a former candidate for the Unified Government board in Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County.