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Jurors get chance to inspect truck Seth Adams was in when shot by deputy

Posted at 7:45 PM, Feb 28, 2017
and last updated 2019-03-26 18:27:44-04
A rare sight in West Palm Beach Tuesday. A federal jury started its day, not hearing testimony, but examining evidence, outside the courtroom, in a parking lot.

It was all for the multi-million dollar civil trial against Sergeant Michael Custer. The Adams family is suing the Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy, who shot and killed their son, claiming Michael Custer used unjustified and excessive force.

One by one, 9 jurors took more than 20 minutes to comb through the pick up truck Seth Adams drove into his family's garden shop parking lot, the night Deputy Michael Custer shot and killed him.

Jurors touched the truck, poked their heads inside, some even leaned under the cab to get a good look at what is now evidence. The dirt still under the tires, untouched since May 16, 2012.

Where the jury believes Adams was standing when he was shot, is an important part of this civil trial, and attorneys for the Adams family say the truck helps their case.

Sergeant Michael Custer claims he and Adams fought near the front of the truck, and that he shot Adams there. Custer's story is that Adams reached into the cab, and he feared Adams grabbed a gun.

Signs of a dent where Custer claims he kicked in the door is still visible on the truck.

But the Adams family argues the physical evidence disputes Custer's story. The family's attorneys believe forensic evidence shows Adams was standing toward the back of the truck when Custer shot him and was unable to reach into the cab.

Forensics show no blood inside the truck, or on the front door, something jurors saw for themselves.

Weeks after the shooting, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw announced Custer acted appropriately. The State Attorney's Office declined to press criminal charges.

A forensic expert, Dr. Jason Simser of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, took the stand Tuesday. Simser says his expertise is in DNA.

Custer claims Adams grabbed him by the neck, when he drove into the parking lot that night. Simsers said, while some of Seth Adams DNA was found on Custer's neck, the PBSO DNA lab had to test it twice because it was such a microscopic amount. PBSO ultimately concluded that they couldn't rule out that it could have belonged to Adams, although Simser testified that he found inconsistencies in PBSO's interpretation of the data.

Adams' attorneys argue, the DNA on the neck was so microscopic, it could have come from saliva or sweat.

Seth Adam's brother and sister in law will continue witness testimony Wednesday.