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Jury selection resumes Friday in Kim Potter trial with goal of seeking 2 alternates

2December 2021

Twelve jurors were in place Thursday for the manslaughter trial against former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter in the fatal shooting death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright last April.

Jury selection will continue Friday with Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu and lawyers seeking two more jurors to serve as alternates. The alternates will hear the case and step in if one of the 12 jurors can’t continue. If the 12 go the distance, the alternates will be go home without participating in closed-door deliberations.

Of the dozen seated, nine are white, two are Asian women and one is a Black woman. Six are men. Six are women. Three are in their 20s, one is in her 30s, four are in their 40s, two are in their 50s and two are in their 60s.

The jurors will be asked to render a verdict on two charges against Potter in Wright’s death: first- and second-degree manslaughter. Potter and her lawyers have said she will testify and claim that she believed she had grabbed her Taser but instead shot Wright with her handgun after a traffic stop for expired tabs.

Opening statements are expected in the trial no later than Wednesday and Chu has raised the prospect of starting early. She also has told jurors that if the trial is still going on Dec. 24, they will take the holiday off and resume Dec. 27.

But already, there was a whiff of potential trouble in the high-profile case. A white man in his 20s seated on Tuesday was concerned his identity was revealed during the global livestream of questioning.

Designated as juror No. 7 on the court record, defense lawyer Earl Gray used the man’s last name when he addressed him. The man also volunteered Tuesday the name of his employer and the band in which he plays bass guitar.

The man returned to court Thursday for a session that was not broadcast beyond the courthouse. According to the notes from the pool reporters in the room, the man said friends and co-workers contacted him immediately after his court session.

“I was just freaked out,” the man said Thursday, but added that he had calmed down in the past couple days and feels “much more comfortable” and can serve on the jury.

Gray apologized to the juror, saying, “I’m the culprit that started this whole thing” by saying his name in open court.

The jury in this case is anonymous for now, but their names could be released months after the jury is done.

Of the three jurors selected Thursday, one is a white woman in her 40s who has two small children and lives in Minneapolis and has worked as an IT project manager. She wrote on her questionnaire before coming to court that Wright “should not have died for something like expired [car registration] tabs.”

She answered “somewhat disagree” on the questionnaire when answering whether police make her feel safe, then explained in court that “I guess I’m just nervous around authority.”

The two others seated Thursday were white men.

One is a married IT security consultant and father who grew up in Bloomington and considered becoming a police officer but changed his mind out of fear “I’d end up having to use my gun.”

The 12th juror seated is in his 50s, a Navy veteran who was voluntarily tased while serving, now lives in Minneapolis, works in data protection and has a hobby that intrigued the attorneys: armored medieval steel fighting.

The man said he and his friends wear suits of armor and hit each other with dull axes. “It’s a very fun time,” the man said.

The juror also said his wife and daughter were victims of an attempted carjacking in south Minneapolis in early 2020. He said his wife was pistol-whipped by four young men who were Hispanic or Black. No one was arrested.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank asked whether his family’s experience would affect him while serving on a jury with a white defendant and a Black victim. He said he would have “no difficulty.”

But Frank also challenged the defense’s dismissal of one prospective juror — a first-year law student who said she had been active in police reform efforts. Defense attorney Paul Engh noted the woman had celebrated police convictions in her social media posts.

The judge found no basis for the state’s contention that the dismissal of the juror was race-based and noted there are already two Asian women on the jury.

The jury is considerably less diverse than the one that convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd. That jury included two multiracial women, three Black men and a Black woman as well as six white people.

Members of the Wright family were in the courtroom Thursday. Wright’s mother, Katie, told a reporter outside the courtroom, “Jury selection is going great.”

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