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Fighting back tears in his closing argument, attorney Tom Pickert described the struggle his homeless client endured after being shot in the leg.
Pickert said David Jungerman, the defendant in the personal injury case, wanted the jury to believe that Jeffrey Harris was "less than human" and could be shot and "no one will care."
"A verdict for Mr. Jungerman is giving him and others like him permission to take the law into their own hands, to be judge, jury, and executioner," he said.
Pickert won the case, but lost his own life. Police are investigating whether Jungerman murdered him.
It was 8 a.m. on Wednesday, and Pickert had returned home from walking his children to school. His wife heard shots, went outside, and found him mortally wounded on the front porch. A neighbor heard screams.
"The last thing she said was 'help, help, help,'" Sandy Corpenny told the Kansas City Star. "Then we heard the police sirens. I had no idea that it happened up here. I kept saying, was it a drive-by. We didn't know. It's just scary."
Kansas City is a dangerous place these days. Three homicides were reported there in the 24 hours when Pickert was killed.
But his murder grabbed headlines, especially since he recently won a $5.75 million verdict against Jungerman. The day before the murder, the court sent notice that the plaintiff's attorney was seizing his property.
Pickert, 39, was a popular lawyer at his firm, where he focused on medical malpractice, nursing home and long-term care abuse. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he was active in the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association.
David Morantz, who went to law school with Pickert, said he was well-liked and respected. "He was always thoughtful, always engaging and always had a smile on his face," he said.
He sued Jungerman, 79, following an incident at the businessman's empty warehouse. Harris tripped an alarm on the dock one night, and Jungerman went to the scene and shot him in the leg. He survived the shooting, but doctors had to amputate his leg below the knee.
It was not the only time Jungerman shot somebody; he reportedly shot two others at his buiness after he shot Harris.
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