JACKSON, Mississippi — Illicit silicone buttocks injections that prosecutors say caused the 2012 death of a Georgia woman are at the center of a murder trial that began Tuesday in Jackson.
Prosecutors told jurors that a Georgia woman died because Jackson resident Tracey Lynn Garner, who had been falsely described as a nurse, gave her the injections. The defense, meanwhile, suggested the victim, 37-year-old Karima Gordon of the Atlanta area, knew what she was getting into.
The trial got underway after attorneys barely managed to agree on 12 jurors out of a jury pool that had been exposed to extensive pretrial publicity.
Gordon died March 24, 2012, eight days after receiving the injections.
"The injections to the victim on March 16 caused the victim's death on March 24," Assistant Mississippi attorney general Patrick Beasley told jurors in his opening statement.
A doctor testified in another trial earlier this year that Gordon died from silicone in her lungs.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that Gordon was referred to Garner by Natasha Stewart, an adult entertainer also known as Pebbelz Da Model. Stewart was convicted of manslaughter last February in Garner's death and is serving a seven-year prison sentence.
The prosecution said Stewart and Garner conspired together, with Stewart telling Gordon that Garner was a nurse.
"This case is about two people who planned, two people who plotted, two people who were all about profit," Beasley said.
Defense attorney John Colette suggested that Gordon wanted exactly what Garner had to offer.
"She wanted this underground, bargain basement, butt enhancement," Colette said.
He also stated that Gordon had other injections that could have caused her death, and argued that the silicone found in Gordon's body didn't match silicone seized from Garner's Jackson home.
"We don't know how much she'd gotten before she ever came to Mississippi," Colette said. "What silicone caused her death?"
The defense also said they doubt testimony will show that Garner ever told Gordon directly that she was a nurse.
The state's first witness, attorney general's investigator Lee McDivitt, testified that authorities identified Garner as a suspect after Gordon's death was ruled a homicide.
Authorities initially identified Garner as a man, Morris Garner, after the arrest. Her attorney has said Garner was born male and had sex reassignment surgery.
McDivitt said authorities seized large syringes marked "for veterinary use only," superglue and silicone in a search of Garner's home.
Authorities have said Garner was giving injections on a massage table at her modest house in west Jackson.
Garner is charged with depraved heart murder, defined as a "callous disregard for human life" resulting in death, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. She also faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Attorneys struggled to seat a jury because of pretrial publicity. Colette eventually withdrew a challenge against one candidate in order to reach 12 jurors. The state sought a delay after no alternate jurors were seated, increasing mistrial chances if one of the jurors drops out. Circuit Judge Winston Kidd ordered the trial to proceed after the defense objected, saying Garner didn't want to wait any longer.
The trial is expected to continue at least through Friday. Garner is also charged in the 2010 death of Marilyn Hale of Selma, Alabama, but this trial doesn't cover those charges.
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