Jury selection wrapped up Friday with the addition of two alternates for the panel that will determine whether to convict former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter of manslaughter in the shooting death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright after a traffic stop last April.
Jury selection started Tuesday and culminated Friday with the selection of a white woman in her 70s and a white man in his 30s. The two will serve as alternates. If any of the first 12 jurors cannot stay for the duration of the trial, an alternate would step in.
“Counsel, we have our jury,” Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu said as court wrapped up after a couple of hours Friday morning. “I want to thank both sides for being efficient with the questioning. And I’m really glad we’re on track to start when we’re supposed to start.”
Chu said lawyers will make opening statements Wednesday with the trial expected to be finished by Dec. 23. If the trial isn’t done by then, Chu said it would be resumed Dec. 27 so jurors don’t miss the Christmas holiday.
But the lawyers will be back Monday to meet in chambers with Chu to write the instructions to be read to the jurors. Chu said she expected to be in the courtroom at some point Monday to discuss the instructions. She told the lawyers they also would review autopsy photos and any objections to trial exhibits.
Discussions in her chambers are private, and public access to the courtroom is limited. When court is in session, the proceedings are visible remotely via livestream — as jury selection was.
Chu and the lawyers found the first 12 jurors after three days of questioning candidates who had filled out lengthy questionnaires in August and submitted them to the court. Lawyers revisited their responses to questions that touched on topics from age and profession to views about policing, race, Potter and Wright, the man she shot as he tried to drive off after a traffic stop for expired tabs last April.
Questioning of the jurors focused on what they had heard about the case, their attitudes toward police, recent civil unrest, guns and race. They were asked whether they could set aside what they’d already heard and keep an open mind until the end of the trial. Potter’s lawyers said she will testify in her own defense.
The jurors deciding the fate of the 49-year-old Potter will be asked to reach verdicts on two charges: first- and second-degree manslaughter.
Potter’s lawyers have said she will testify that she believed she had grabbed her Taser but instead shot Wright with her handgun as he tried to get in the car and drive away. The shooting occurred during a traffic stop for expired vehicle registration tabs, during which officers learned there was a warrant for his arrest on a gross-misdemeanor weapons allegation.
During jury selection, Chu and the lawyers talked to 33 prospective jurors in the courtroom over four days. Juror responses to the questionnaires aren’t yet public, but some answers were discussed during juror questioning. Of those who were asked, 18 had written in August that they had a “very negative” or “somewhat negative” impression of Potter. Another five had a neutral impression.
The panel is overwhelmingly white. Of the 14 seated, all are white except for two Asian women and a Black woman. They all live in Hennepin County, where three in four residents are white, according to the U.S. Census.
Seven of the jurors are men and seven are women. Three are in their 20s, two are in their 30s, four are in their 40s, two are in their 50s, two are in their 60s and one is in her 70s.
The first alternate selected is a white woman in her 70s with grown children who has been on juries twice before, one involving a police officer who injured a man. She said both cases were from many years ago and she couldn’t recall specifics.
Asked whether she wants to sit on the Potter jury, the woman replied, “I’ve had the benefit of a long life, and I am blessed that I am healthy. … In that respect, I’d be honored to serve on the jury.”
The final alternate is a 30-something father of a 2-year-old who lives in Eden Prairie. His daughter’s godfather is a St. Paul police officer, but the man said the relationship would have no affect on his ability to be a fair juror.
He said, “I’ve heard some stories” about the behavior of particular officers. “There are some police officers who aren’t the best,” he added.
That said, he added, “I see police officers have a lot of respect, even my friend, for the most part he feels he gets the respect he deserves.”