MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The trial for former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who is charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop earlier this year, began Tuesday.
The trial is taking place in the same courtroom where Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd earlier this year. Four jurors were seated during the first day of jury selection Tuesday, of the 12 jurors and two alternates needed for the trial.
Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter in Wright’s April 11 death. The shooting occurred after officers pulled Wright over for expired tabs. Officers tried to arrest him after learning he had a warrant for a misdemeanor, but Wright resisted. During the struggle, Potter fired her gun, hitting Wright. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The defense claims the shooting was an accident, that Potter mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Wright. But, prosecutors say Potter was reckless and negligent and should go to prison.
Kim Potter to testify in own defense
While questioning one of the potential jurors Tuesday morning, defense attorney Paul Engh confirmed Potter will testify in her own defense at her trial.
Juror No. 6 told the court when she first heard about the Wright shooting, her reaction was, "How could this happen?"
"Officer Potter will testify and tell you what she remembered happened," Engh said. "So you will know not just from the video, but from officers at the scene and officer Potter herself what was occurring. I think you would be quite interested in what she has to say."
Four jurors seated
Four jurors were seated on the first day of jury selection in the Potter trial--two men and two women. A total of 14 jurors--12 jurors and two alternates--need to be seated before the opening statements can begin. Five potential jurors were dismissed for cause. The state used one of its three peremptory challenges to dismiss one of the potential jurors, while the defense used one of its five strikes.
READ NEXT: What to know about the Kim Potter trial
Juror No. 2 was the first juror to be questioned on Tuesday and the first juror to be seated in the trial. He works as an editor in the field of neurology. He wrote in his questionnaire that he has an unfavorable impression of "Blue Lives Matter," explaining to the court he believes it is less in support of police and is "more of a counter cry to Black Lives Matter."
Juror No. 2 also said he believes in a need for change when it comes to policing, but made it clear he absolutely opposes the movement to defund or abolish the police. He said he supports "good police work."
He wrote in his questionnaire that he has always wanted to serve on a jury.
Juror No. 6 was also seated on the jury. She is a mother who recently lost a daughter to breast cancer. She is also a retired special education teacher who taught English as a second language to immigrants, telling the court a student once described her as "strict, but fair."
Juror No. 7 was the third juror to be seated. He is an operations manager at Target who works overnights. He told the court he had not slept in 24 hours, but that he had already talked to Target’s human resources department and would be able to take a leave of absence if he is selected to be on the jury.
Juror No. 7 said he spent much of his 20s touring in a Minneapolis-based alternative rock band, where he plays bass guitar. He called it an "eye-opening experience" and said his worldview shifted because of it. He said COVID shut down their tour so he has been focusing on his work at Target.
Judge Chu and defense attorney Earl Gray questioned the potential over his previous experience with Tasers and firearms. Juror No. 7 said he took a firearm safety class when he was in his teens and owned a stun gun for a period of time while on tour with his band.
Under questioning, Juror No. 11, spoke about her fears about the unrest in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s murder.
"I heard bullets, shots while in my house," she testified. She also mentioned a friend who had been stabbed five years ago in Minneapolis.
Juror No. 11 told attorneys she is a rule follower and would do what the court tells her.
The state struck Juror No. 8, a Minneapolis Fire Department captain for more than 30 years who is now retired. He told Judge Chu he could absolutely be "fair and impartial" and insisted he had no opinion on the case.
The defense struck Juror No. 15, a woman, who said she supported defunding the police based on her experience working on municipal and federal budgets. However, she said this would not
"It is my personal opinion police are overfunded relative to the amount they can do in the community as compared to other initiatives that could be more deserving of that funding," she said.
That same juror also volunteered on Attorney General Keith Ellison's 2018 campaign, but said it was because she thought it would be a good opportunity to understand local politics and not because she particularly supported Ellison's candidacy. Ellison's office is leading the prosecution of the case against Potter.
One of the potential jurors who were dismissed for cause, Juror No. 5, said he had read a lot about the case prior to getting the jury summons. Juror No. 5, a construction worker with two kids who play hockey, said he was a rule follower. He told court if Daunte Wright "would have listened to directions, he would still be with us." He was dismissed for cause.
How to watch the Kim Potter trial
Judge Chu has allowed cameras in the courtroom and for the Potter trial to be streamed live. The Potter trial will be streamed live, gavel to gavel, on fox9.com/live, the FOX 9 YouTube channel and the FOX 9 News App. Download the app for Android or Apple.
Where jury selection stands
Jury selection began on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Judge Chu has set aside one week for jury selection.
- Four jurors seated--two men and two women.
- State has used one of their three peremptory strikes
- Defense has used one of their five peremptory strikes
The following jurors have been seated on the jury:
- Juror No. 2: White man in his 50s. Works as an editor in neurology dealing with medical evidence. Testified that he has an unfavorable view of "Blue Lives Matter." Has always wanted to serve on a jury.
- Juror No. 6: White woman in her 60s. Retired special education teacher. She lost one of her four children two years ago to breast cancer.
- Juror No. 7: White man, 29 years old. Overnight operations manager at Target and bass guitar player in a local alternative rock band. Took a firearms safety class when he was a teenager.
- Juror No. 11: Asian woman in her 40s. Works in downtown Minneapolis and said she was concerned about the unrest following the killing of George Floyd.
How will the Potter trial jury be selected?
Jury selection began on Tuesday, Nov. 30 and is expected to take about a week.
Judge Chu has ordered the identities of the jurors to remain a secret for the duration of the trial, so they will only be referred to by a random, previously assigned number. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge will decide when the jurors’ identities can be made public.
The court asked potential jurors to fill out a 13-page questionnaire asking about their knowledge of the case, police connections, attitudes towards the legal system and their media habits. The answers were provided to the attorneys and the judge prior to the start of jury selection.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys will be able to question the prospective jurors over their questionnaire responses during jury selection. Over a dozen potential jurors have already been dismissed, likely over their answers on the questionnaire.
During jury selection, prosecutors and Potter’s defense attorneys will question each potential juror one at a time, separately from the others. The defense is allowed five peremptory challenges while the state has three. Attorneys do not have to provide a reason for why they object the juror when using a peremptory challenge. Potential jurors can also be struck from the jury for cause, meaning there is a reason to believe the juror is unfit for a fair trial. There is no limit on the number of jurors who can be removed for cause.
The jury will be partially sequestered during the trial and fully sequestered during deliberation, although Judge Chu may order full sequestration at any time.
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