A mostly white jury will hear opening statements this week during the trial of ex-cop Kim Potter, who resigned after killing Daunte Wright when she pulled a gun on him instead of a taser.
Potter, 49, who is white, was charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 death of Wright, 20, a black man who the former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, officer pulled over for having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror and expired license plate tags.
The 12-person jury was selected Friday and includes nine white people, one black person and two who are Asian. The two alternates chosen are white.
The makeup of the jury is roughly in line with the demographics of Hennepin County, which is about 74 percent white, but notably less diverse than the jury that convicted former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin this spring in the death of George Floyd.
Prosecutors and Potter’s defense team met Monday to hammer out jury instructions ahead of Wednesday’s opening arguments.
Former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer Kim Potter, seen in an April 15 courtroom sketch, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 killing of Daunte Wright
Wright, 20, was pulled over for having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror and expired license plate tags
Potter is expected to testify during the trial
The instructions are an important part of any case because they tell jurors what the law is and how the facts of the case should be applied to the law, said Mike Brandt, a Minneapolis-area defense attorney who is not connected to the case.
Generally speaking, the defense will try to broaden the instructions – so prosecutors have more to prove – while the state will try to make the instructions as narrow as possible.
‘The broader that the instructions make the burden on the state, the more areas you have to punch holes in it,’ Brandt said, adding that sometimes the process can be ‘very contentious.’
The instructions will affect how both sides tailor their arguments.
Potter plans to testify in her own defense, her lawyer said last week at the Hennepin County Government Center as jury selection began.
‘Officer Potter will testify and tell you what she remembers happened, so you will know not just from the video but from the officers at the scene and Officer Potter herself what was occurring,’ her lawyer Paul Engh told reporters.
‘I think [you] should be quite interested in hearing what she had to say.’
Wright was killed by Potter during a traffic stop after he resisted arrest and she threatened to taser him.
She actually fired a gun at Wright, striking him in the chest. She has since claimed she grabbed the wrong weapon – her gun was holstered on her right side, while the taser was on her left.
A jury of 14 people – including two alternates – was selected Friday to hear the case. Opening statements are set to begin Wednesday. Pictured: members of the prosecution and defense are seen as Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu presides over jury selection November 30
Potter has said she meant to use her Taser on Wright after he tried to drive away from officers while they were trying to arrest him, but that she grabbed her handgun instead. Her body camera recorded the shooting
There was much wrangling as the jury members were seated.
Two men and two women were the first to be selected last Tuesday, with four more added to the panel on Wednesday.
The first juror is a white man in his 50s who is a medical journal editor and has an unfavorable view of Blue Lives Matter, CBS Minnesota reported.
The second juror, a white woman, is a retired special education teacher who is said to have favorable views of both Potter and Wright.
The third juror is also a white man who in his 20s and said to be working at Target and spent years touring with a rock bank and ‘distrusts police,’ CBS Minnesota reported.
The fourth juror is a self-described ‘rule-following’ Asian woman in her 40s who is concerned about getting paid by her employer while serving on the jury.
Other jurors include a mom who responded to a questionnaire by saying the victim ‘should not have died for something like an expired tab.’
A Navy veteran who is concerned about systemic racism was also seated, as was a man who had a ‘somewhat negative’ view of both Potter and Wright.
Seven potential jurors have been denied, including No. 15 who said she worked for the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s campaign in 2018.
She also admitted to attending George Floyd protest and visited the square named after him and supports defunding the police.
Legal experts have said juries that are diverse by race, gender and economic background are necessary to minimize bias in the legal system.
Potter resigned from the force after killing Wright
Wright was shot as Derek Chauvin was standing trial 10 miles away for killing George Floyd. Wright’s death sparked several nights of intense protests in the Minneapolis suburb
Potter and two other officers attempted to detain Wright after learning there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for a misdemeanor weapons violation.
On body camera footage of the incident, training officer Anthony Luckey is seen trying to arrest Wright and put handcuffs on him, but Wright spun away and got back in the car.
Within seconds, Potter warned Wright repeatedly that she was going to use her stun gun.
Potter drew her service weapon instead, however, and fired a single shot.
Realizing her mistake, Potter became hysterical and told Luckey and another officer at the scene she had grabbed the wrong weapon: ‘I shot him!’
Wright was shot as Chauvin was standing trial 10 miles away for killing Floyd. Wright’s death sparked several nights of intense protests in the suburb.
The most serious charge against Potter requires prosecutors to prove recklessness; the lesser 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 on the second-degree one.
Prosecutors have said they would seek a longer sentence.