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Vick murder trial begins

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The trial of the man accused of killing St. Paul Police Sgt. Gerald Vick got underway in a Ramsey County courtroom Wednesday. (MPR file photo)
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner told jurors that DNA evidence found on the gun that killed St. Paul Police Sgt. Gerald Vick is from the man on trial for Vick's death -- Harry Evans. The defense said, however, the state has the wrong man on trial. Evans' trial began Wednesday afternoon with both sides giving opening statements that laid out their roadmaps for the case.

St. Paul, Minn. — About 100 people sat on the hard benches of a Ramsey County courtroom waiting for the trial to begin. There were some cops, there were reporters, and there were members of Vick's family, including his mother. When the man on trial for murdering her youngest son entered the courtroom, she buried her face in her hands and wept.

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner began her opening statements talking about Gerald Vick the child, who at 15 decided he wanted to be a cop. She said the highly decorated police officer was so dedicated that it often meant hours away from his wife and two children.

Gaertner told jurors that Harry Evans' DNA was on the gun that fired three bullets into Sgt. Vick during the early morning of May 6, 2005, behind Erick's bar on the east side of St. Paul. She said a coroner and scientists from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will link that DNA to the gun that killed Vick.

Gaertner said surveillance cameras at a nearby 3M plant did not capture the shooting, but did show what she called "other critical information."

Gaertner also talked about the fact that Vick was legally drunk when he died. She acknowledged that his blood alcohol level, at .20, was twice the legal limit. Nevertheless, she said the 6'4", 230-pound man showed no signs of impairment. Gaertner says witnesses will testify Vick never looked drunk.

The defense argued the state has the wrong man -- that Evans did not kill Vick. Instead, the state's main witness and Evans' companion that night, Antonio Kelly, did.

Evans' attorney, Kelley Malone-O'Neill, told jurors that analysts in San Antonio, Texas found gunshot residue on both of Antonio Kelly's hands. There was no residue on Evans' hands. In addition, she said a DNA expert will testify that a Minnesota lab's conclusion that Evans' DNA was on the gun is wrong.

Malone-O'Neill asked the jurors to consider the demeanors of both Kelly and Evans that night. Evans was quiet, mild-mannered; Kelly was drunk, belligerent, and erupted in foul language.

It was Kelly who first caught the attention of Sgt. Vick and his partner, because Kelly was relieving himself against the outside of a bar. It was Kelly who later stood in an intersection, yelling, and blocking Sgt. Strong's car.

Defense attorney O'Neill also argued that Kelly fingered Evans to save himself. When police interrogated Kelly, they asked him whether he wanted to be "a suspect or a witness." Kelly, who has been granted immunity, said he saw Evans with the gun.

After both sides finished their opening statements, the prosecution called two witnesses. The first, St. Paul Police officer Amanda Heu, who testified that she saw Vick that night and never thought he was drunk. She said his motor skills were good as he was shooting pool, and he didn't exhibit any signs of intoxication.

At times Hue, who was dressed in her blue uniform, got choked up when she talked about how Vick mentored her. Testimony for the day ended with Vick's brother, Ken, who said his brother loved helping people.

The trial is expected to last several weeks.

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