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10th juror added in manslaughter trial of ex-officer Potter in Wright shooting death

2December 2021

The third day of the manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter started Thursday morning with a 10th juror added.

Nine jurors were seated by the end of the second full day of jury selection Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court, where Potter is on trial in connection with the shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April.

Judge Regina Chu said 14 jurors will be seated with the final pair serving as alternates who will be dismissed before the jury begins deliberating whether Potter is guilty of either first- or second-degree manslaughter for killing Wright as he attempted to evade arrest on a gross-misdemeanor warrant.

The 10th juror, an IT security consultant who is married with children, said he had once considered being a police officer but changed his mind out of fear “I’d end up having to use my gun.”

He said he has seen the police body camera video of Potter’s encounter with Wright, and “it didn’t look like the situation was being handled. … it didn’t appear that the [younger] officer was in charge.”

Once Potter stepped in, the juror wrote in his questionnaire, “she should have hade enough ‘muscle memory'” to know she was holding her handgun and not a Taser before shooting Wright.

Elaborating in court, he explained, “It’s kind of like which foot uses the gas and which uses the brake.”

In spite of that assessment, the man pledged he could give Potter the legally required presumption of innocence throughout the trial.

Five jurors were seated Wednesday after four were chosen Tuesday, the initial day of selection. So far, six women and three men have been selected. Jurors are not visible on the livestream of the trial, and their identities are secret for now.

Five of the jurors are women, while four are male. Six are white, two are Asian and one is Black. Four are in their 20s, two are in their 40s, two are in their 60s and one is in their 30s.

Thursday’s selection process began with a schoolteacher who said he works in “a very urban setting” and “when I see the victim, the victim looks like a lot of my students that I teach. It’s really hard to separate that. … I don’t know that I would be the best pick.”

After brief questioning by prosecutor Matthew Frank, the attorneys and Chu agreed that this jury candidate would be dismissed.

The next juror also was excused by the bench, over the prosecution’s objection, because she has a family trip that she said would be difficult for her to reschedule and she would have difficulty focusing on the trial.

A third potential juror, a Somali man who described English as a secondary language, acknowledged he would struggle with legal terms and initially said he would otherwise be able to communicate should he be chosen.

However, Chu excused the man after he agreed with her that he might not have sufficient proficiency in English overall to serve effectively.

After questioning the final prospective juror Wednesday, the prosecution used the last of its three peremptory strikes. The moves allow lawyers to dismiss jurors without providing a reason. Now, if prosecutors want to keep a prospective juror off the panel, they must give the court an acceptable reason. The defense started jury selection with five peremptory strikes and has three remaining.

Opening statements are scheduled for Dec. 8. Given the speed of the jury selection, Chu floated the idea of starting sooner, but no decision was made.

Potter, 49, sat at the defense table both days between her lawyers, Earl Gray and Paul Engh. Like everyone else in the courtroom, the three wore masks when not speaking.

In a somewhat unusual revelation at this stage of the trial, the defense already has told some jurors that Potter will take the stand in her defense.

Outside the presence of jurors before selection started Wednesday, Potter confirmed her intent with Chu. “Do you understand it is totally your decision as to whether or not you testify?” the judge asked.

“Yes, I do, Your Honor,” Potter responded.

Potter fired a single shot at Wright, 20, during a traffic stop April 11 after he slipped away from an officer and tried to get back into the driver’s seat of his car, according to body camera footage.

She yelled, “Taser, Taser, Taser” at Wright and later said she mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of the Taser.

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