The trial of a man accused of assaulting a transgender woman in Dallas began with tense moments in the courtroom.
Video of the attack went viral in April and showed a group of people surrounding Muhlaysia Booker, 23, in the parking lot of an Oak Cliff apartment complex. In the cell phone video, multiple people are seen punching and stomping on Booker.
Edward Thomas is the only suspect charged in the case.
Within 45 minutes of the start of testimony on Wednesday, Judge Hector Garza sent the jury out of the room twice during squabbles with defense lawyer Andrew Wilkerson.
Wilkerson argued with the judge over defense objections that were overruled and prosecution objections that were sustained.
One argument centered on the defense’s cross examination of the prosecutor’s first witness, Booker’s mother. Wilkerson asked Stephanie Houston whether Booker was prone to fighting. Over intense objection, Judge Garza ruled the defense couldn’t proceed down that line of questioning.
Wilkerson demanded a reason for the judge’s ruling. At one point, Judge Garza said, “Once I make a ruling, move onto the next question.”
At another time, prosecutor Robert Withers called for sanctions against the defense.
“Just looking at the whole situation, I know it’s like a see-saw. His lawyer has the right to say what he wants to say,” said Peirre Booker Sr., Muhlaysia Booker’s father.
Peirre Booker said his family would be in court to speak on Muhlaysia’s behalf.
“My child is not here,” said Booker. “I have to be their voice, their mom has to be their voice, we have to be the voice.”
Wednesday, jurors also heard from a witness who saw the fight and called police along with the Dallas Police detective who testified Thomas admitted to the assault.
The defense argued police failed to find other participants in the assault. Wilkerson contends Thomas was over-charged in the case, saying the beating amounted to a misdemeanor and not a felony.
The defense also said Booker provoked the altercation after trying to leave the scene of a fender bender at the apartment complex.
During the trial, prosecutors referred to Booker as Muhlaysia Booker and used female pronouns. The defense used Booker’s legal name, Peirre, and male pronouns.
The defense has said the jury should see the altercation as a fight between two men.
Houston testified Booker was born a male and at 19, began to live life as a woman. At the time of Booker’s assault, Booker’s preferred name was Muhlaysia.
Testimony is expected to continue on Thursday as the prosecution continues to present its case.