Jury selection starts for alleged Jamar Clark protest shooter

Allen Scarsella
Allen Scarsella is accused of shooting Black Lives Matter protesters outside the 4th Precinct.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

Potential jurors in the trial of Allen Scarsella are being asked how they feel about race, guns and the protest group Black Lives Matter. Forty prospective jurors appeared in Hennepin County District Court on Monday, and were sent home with 21-page questionnaires.

Scarsella, 24, is accused of shooting and wounding five African-American protesters on the night of Nov. 23. The demonstrators were gathered outside the Minneapolis 4th Precinct police station, near the site where 24-year-old Jamar Clark was shot and killed by two Minneapolis police officers Nov. 15, 2015.

According to the questionnaire, jurors will also be asked about their familiarity with the Clark shooting, as well as how much they've heard about the defendant, Scarsella.

Before excusing the panel, Judge Hilary Caligiuri reminded potential jurors not to read any media accounts about the case while they are being considered for the jury. She also told them that if selected to sit on the jury, they will have to stay off social media. Jury selection continues Tuesday.

Scarsella's defense attorneys, Peter Martin and Laura Heinrich, tried unsuccessfully to move the trial outside of Hennepin County, for fear that pre-trial media attention would prevent their client from getting a fair trial. Last week the defense filed an objection to the prosecution's intent to use videos of Scarsella and others using racially offensive language and carrying out target practice with firearms.

"Mr. Scarsella's attitudes about race and firearms do not make any fact of consequence more or less likely and their potential for prejudice substantially outweighs any probative value they might have," reads the brief.

However, prosecutors say Scarsella harbored negative feelings about African-Americans. One of the videos that will likely be shown at trial shows Scarsella riding in a vehicle with another man identified in court documents as Julio Suarez a few days before the shooting in north Minneapolis. Suarez, who holds up a handgun, uses a derogatory term to describe African-Americans. And at the end of the video Suarez says, "stay white."

Scarsella has pleaded not guilty to seven felony charges. His attorneys say Scarsella has not engaged in negotiations to settle his case.

When asked by Caligiuri if he understood the ramifications of going through with a trial, Scarsella calmly replied, "I do not wish to settle."

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