12th juror seated Thursday in Kimberly Potter trial, 2 to go
Kimberly Potter, who was a police officer in the city of Brooklyn Center just north of Minneapolis, has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree manslaughter charges. Her lawyers have said Potter, 49, mistakenly used her handgun instead of her stun gun in the death of Wright, a 20-year-old shot during a traffic stop.
MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors, defense attorneys and Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu pressed ahead Thursday, Dec. 2, on the work to pick a jury of 12 and two alternates in the trial of Kimberly Potter , the former Brooklyn Center police officer charged in the Daunte Wright killing.
Twelve jurors have now been selected among the pool of roughly 250 people who’d filled out detailed questionnaires probing their views on race, police and crime.
The 12th juror, picked late afternoon on Thursday, said he was a gun owner who served in the Navy and had been stunned with a stun gun as part of military training. He said he worked in technology safety. His wife and child were carjacked last year but he said that wouldn’t affect his ability to weigh evidence in Potter’s trial.
Thursday started more slowly than previous days of jury selection. Three potential jurors in a row were dismissed. One was a teacher who said that Wright “looks like a lot of students I teach.” Another, who said she’d carried signs during protests in support of Wright, had a family vacation planned.
Chu has penciled in Dec. 8 for the start of opening statements in the trial, but that date could be moved up since jury selection should be done by the end of Friday, Dec. 3. The trial is expected to end by Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.
Potter faces first-degree and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Wright as Brooklyn Center police attempted to take him into custody during a traffic stop on April 11. Prosecutors are expected to argue Potter’s actions were especially reckless given her extensive Taser training months before the incident.
Potter's defense is expected to argue she meant to fire her Taser to subdue Wright, 20, but accidentally drew her service weapon and shot the man once in the chest, killing him. She has pleaded not guilty and is expected to testify in her defense during the trial.
Wright’s killing set off days of protests and property destruction in the Twin Cities suburb, with demonstrators saying Wright’s killing was an example of racial bias by police against Black people.
The prosecution is not characterizing Wright's killing as racially motivated. But civil rights advocates have pointed to a long history of officers not being held accountable when they kill unarmed Black people. Potter is white. Wright was Black.
Thursday held an extra bit of drama — Potter defense attorney Earl Gray apologized to a juror.
Gray on Tuesday had twice used the last names of two potential jurors during questioning and asked questions of one juror about his life that made it easy to discover his name.
That juror on Thursday told the court he didn’t realize jury selection was being livestreamed. While the jurors’ faces are not being shown in the broadcast, the juror said he was very troubled about his identity being easy to deduce.
Chu had ordered juror names to be kept confidential by the court during the trial. She warned the defense not to mention identifying information of potential jurors.
Gray on Thursday apologized to the juror and the court. "I'm the culprit who started the whole thing and I apologize,” Gray said, according to KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse; the juror accepted the apology and said he would not hold the incident against Potter.
6 women, 6 men chosen so far
While the trial is being livestreamed, the court is protecting the identities of the jurors. The court provides limited demographic information. Of the 12 jurors selected, nine people are white; two are of Asian descent and one person is Black. There are six men and six women.
Here’s a brief look at some of their responses.
- The first juror chosen said he’d lived in Washington, D.C., for 16 years, has a career related to medicine and that he deals with facts at work.
- The second selected described herself as a retired teacher. She seemed to come down in the middle on questions around support for police and Black Lives Matter protesters. She was concerned about the trial’s emotion toll, but added that she could be fair.
- The third chosen said they worked overnight at a distribution center for a retail store chain and also played in a rock band. The person once owned a Taser stun gun several years ago and has seen the body camera video of the Wright shooting.
- The fourth juror mentioned during questioning that she had a female friend who was fatally stabbed five years ago in Minneapolis. She said she respects police, but could also be an impartial juror.
- The fifth juror seated indicated she was a recent graduate of either high school or college. She said she did not support defunding police and added, "You’re always going to need police officers and there are always going to be bad things that happen, we need them."
- The sixth is a teacher would said she owned a compact Taser stun gun for protection. She indicated she found both the Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter movements divisive. Chu noted the juror checked “yes,” “no,” and “not sure” on her questionnaire asking if she’d be willing to serve on a jury. “It’s unfamiliar territory,” the juror said.
- The seventh juror said he has a brother-in-law in law enforcement on the East Coast and served on a prior jury about protestors trespassing. He said he didn’t condone anyone fleeing from police but added that Potter’s actions should have been better thought out.
- The eighth juror said he is a registered nurse in private home health care who has a “neutral” impression of Potter and Wright. He added that he doesn’t “have a reason not to trust [police] … They’ve got difficult decisions to make at times.”
- The ninth juror said she didn’t want to serve as a juror. “I have a lot of friends and family that are very opinionated in the matter,” she said. And added that she could put her biases aside, but acknowledged that she has a lot of influences surrounding her.
- The 10th juror, chosen earlier Thursday, said he’d been in a high school police explorer group and once thought about pursuing a career in law enforcement but changed course because "I was afraid I'd have to use my gun.”
- The 11th juror is a woman with an information technology background and two small children. She said she’d attended a past protest against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement related to children in cages at the border.
- On her questionnaire, she'd written "Daunte should not have died" for expired tabs, a reference to the police explanation of why they’d stopped Wright in April.