By Steve Karnowski and Amy Forliti, Associated Press
The jury for the trial of a suburban Minneapolis police officer charged in Daunte Wright’s shooting death began to take shape Wednesday, with nine of the necessary 14 panelists seated, including a woman who said she owns a stun gun.
Kim Potter, 49, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 shooting of Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist, following a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. Potter, who is white, has said she meant to use her Taser on Wright after he pulled away from officers, but that she drew her handgun by mistake.
The stun gun owner was asked whether she could set aside what she knows about her own device — one she said she has never used — and she said she could. She went on to say that she strongly disagrees that police officers should not be second-guessed for their decisions.
“This is a servitude job, and when you get into this position, you need to understand that it’s a tough job and so you have to maintain that level of professionalism when you get into that position,” she said.
Also seated Wednesday was a woman who said she thought protests against police in the Minneapolis area have had a negative effect because of the property damage some have caused. She also said she somewhat disagrees with the idea of defunding the police, saying, “You’re always going to need police officers.”
A man chosen for the jury said in his questionnaire that he had “somewhat negative” impressions of both Potter and Wright. Asked why about Wright, he said, “I don’t condone fleeing from a police officer.” About Potter, he said, “When training fellow officers your actions should be more thought out.”
Nine jurors have been seated, with opening statements scheduled for next Wednesday. Fourteen jurors will be chosen, including two alternates. Three of the first four jurors seated are white, and the fourth is Asian, according to the court. The court did not immediately release demographic information for the five chosen Wednesday.
Attorneys and Judge Regina Chu have probed potential jurors this week for what they knew about Wright’s death and about their views of protests against police brutality that were frequent occurrences in Minneapolis even before George Floyd’s death.
Each side has a limited number of peremptory strikes that can be used without requiring a reason. Prosecutor Matthew Frank on Wednesday used up his last two strikes, including one to dismiss a woman who described her fears about violence in Minneapolis, expressed trust in police and said officers shouldn’t be second-guessed.
The woman also said she has a very unfavorable view of Black Lives Matter, writing on her questionnaire that the group goes “too far overboard.”
Frank also used a strike to dismiss a man who said he was a hunter, gun owner and Fox News viewer, and that he hasn’t seen any evidence that police treat white and Black people differently.
On Tuesday — the first day of jury selection — an attorney for Potter said jurors would hear directly from the former officer, who resigned two days after she shot and killed Wright. Body-camera video recorded the shooting, with Potter heard saying, “Taser, Taser Taser” before she fired, followed by, “I grabbed the wrong (expletive) gun.” .
Wright was shot in Brooklyn Center as former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was standing trial only 10 miles (16 kilometers) away for killing Floyd, and Wright’s death sparked several nights of intense protests in the suburb.
Jurors’ names are being withheld and they were not shown on the livestream of the trial.
The most serious charge against Potter 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 on the second-degree one. Prosecutors have said they would seek a longer sentence.
Find the AP’s full coverage of the Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright