Kimberly Potter trial: 9th juror seated; Potter to testify

3 things to know:

  • Ex-Brooklyn Center officer Kimberly Potter faces first- and second-degree manslaughter; attorney says Potter will testify in her own defense during trial

  • 9 jurors picked so far; 12 jurors and 2 alternates needed

  • Opening statements set for Dec. 8; judge hopes to be done by Christmas Eve

Updated 5 p.m.

Nine jurors have been seated after two days of jury selection in the trial of Kimberly Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer charged in the killing of Daunte Wright.

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu kept the work moving apace, choosing five more jurors Wednesday among the pool of roughly 250 who’d earlier filled out detailed questionnaires probing their views on race, police and crime.

Twelve jurors and two alternates will be needed before opening statements, which are set to start on Dec. 8. Pool reports from inside the courtroom identify the jurors chosen so far as five women and four men. It appears that six of the jurors are white, one is Black and two are Asian.

Chu said Wednesday that the jury selection process was going well and asked the attorneys if they'd be ready to present opening statements early.

The trial is expected to end by Dec. 24, Christmas Eve. But she told jurors that they’d get a short break for Christmas and resume on Dec. 27 if the trial was still going on.

People sit behind desks in a courtroom.
Judge Regina Chu gives instructions to prospective jurors on the first day of jury selection in the trial of former police officer Kimberly Potter on Tuesday.
Screenshot of Court TV video

Potter faces first-degree and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Wright as Brooklyn Center police attempted to take him into custody during a traffic stop on April 11. Prosecutors are expected to argue Potter’s actions were especially reckless given her extensive Taser training months before the incident.

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Perhaps the most compelling news so far in the first two days: An attorney for Potter said his client would be testifying in her defense during the trial.

Potter's defense is expected to argue she meant to fire her Taser to subdue Wright, 20, but accidentally drew her service weapon and shot the man once in the chest, killing him. She has pleaded not guilty.

Wright’s killing set off days of protests and property destruction in the Twin Cities suburb, with demonstrators saying Wright’s killing was an example of racial bias by police against Black people.

The prosecution is not characterizing Wright's killing as racially motivated. But civil rights advocates have pointed to a long history of officers not being held accountable when they kill unarmed Black people. Potter is white. Wright was Black.

Jurors chosen Wednesday

Kimberly Potter trial: Jury selection continues; Potter to testify
by Nina Moini | MPR News

While the trial is being livestreamed, the identities of the jurors are being protected by the court during the process.

On Tuesday, though, Potter defense attorney Earl Gray twice used the last names of two potential jurors during questioning. They were both later seated on the jury. Chu had ordered juror names to be kept confidential by the court. She warned the defense not to mention identifying information of potential jurors.

Four jurors were picked Tuesday, with five seated Wednesday.

The fifth juror indicated she was a recent graduate of either high school or college. The juror said she did not support defunding police and added, "You’re always going to need police officers and there are always going to be bad things that happen, we need them."

The sixth juror chosen midmorning Wednesday is a teacher whose husband is a semitrailer truck driver. She said she owned a compact Taser stun gun for protection. She indicated she found both the Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter movements to be divisive.

Chu noted that the juror had answered “yes,” “no,” and “not sure” on her questionnaire asking if she’d be willing to serve on a jury. “It’s just more so of a new experience,” the juror replied. “It’s unfamiliar territory.”

The seventh juror picked said he has a brother-in-law in law enforcement on the East Coast and served on a prior jury about protestors trespassing. He said he didn’t condone anyone fleeing from police but added that Potter’s actions should have been better thought out. He said he’d seen the body camera video of the incident.

The eighth juror said he is a registered nurse in private home health care and his spouse had worked as a law clerk with Hennepin County public defender’s office and a county judge more than 30 years ago. He indicated that he had seen the body camera footage but said he doesn’t know much about the case and has a “neutral” impression of Potter and Wright.

He added that he doesn’t “have a reason not to trust [police] until otherwise depending on circumstances. … They’ve got difficult decisions to make at times.” 

The ninth juror said she has a lot of friends and family who have strong opinions on the case, but that she could “put my biases aside.”

She told the court that she believed that supporters of Black Lives Matter should be able to assert their beliefs, but was “angry” and “upset” about property destruction during unrest in the Twin Cities: “I felt like it wasn’t connected and that the protests were taken advantage of.”

Prosecutors used their final peremptory challenge to strike a potential juror who expressed strong trust in the police and “very negative” opinions of the Black Lives Matter movement, saying they may be responsible for what she sees as an uptick in violence in Minneapolis.

Potter has three remaining peremptory challenges that can be used to strike potential jurors.

Trial basics

8 things to know: Kimberly Potter shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April. His killing set off days of protests and unrest in Brooklyn Center, with demonstrators saying Wright’s killing was an example of racial bias by police against Black people.

The charges: The former officer is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter. Here’s a look at what the charges mean and the potential penalties.

What happened on April 11

According to the criminal complaint, Wright was driving a white Buick through Brooklyn Center when he was pulled over by a group of officers shortly before 2 p.m. Officers told Wright that they’d pulled him over because he had an air freshener in his rearview mirror and the tabs on his car were expired.

Police ran a check on Wright’s name and discovered that he had an outstanding arrest warrant. Wright complied when asked to get out of his car, but as officers tried to handcuff him, he slipped away and got back into the car.

Potter is heard on body camera footage telling Wright, “I’ll Tase ya.” She pulls her firearm and points it at Wright, shouts “Taser” three times, then shoots her handgun. The bullet hit Wright in the chest and pierced his heart.

Wright’s car traveled down the street and crashed into another vehicle. Potter is recorded saying, ”S—-, I just shot him” just seconds after firing. A minute later, she said, “I’m going to prison,” and “I killed a boy.”

Officers provided medical care to Wright but he died at the scene.

Manslaughter charges

Prosecutors charged Potter, who resigned two days after the shooting, with first- and second-degree manslaughter, saying she was an experienced officer who was trained to know better.

The most serious charge requires prosecutors to prove recklessness; the lesser only requires them to prove culpable negligence.

Minnesota's sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of just over seven years on the first-degree manslaughter count, and four years for second-degree. But prosecutors have said they’ll seek a longer sentence.

Attorneys who aren't involved in the case expect both sides to give jurors a thorough vetting, as they did in Chauvin's trial. The pool will come from Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis and is the state's most populous county.

Hennepin is 74 percent white, 14 percent Black, 7.5 percent Asian and 7 percent Latino, according to census data. Brooklyn Center is one of the most diverse cities in the state, at 46 percent white, 29 percent Black, 16 percent Asian and 15 percent Latino.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.