MINNEAPOLIS — Jury selection moved forward Thursday in the trial of a suburban Minneapolis police officer charged in Daunte Wright’s shooting death, with the 10th and 11th jurors seated ahead of opening statements next week.
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 while they were trying to arrest him, but that she drew her handgun by mistake.
The 10th juror is a man who said he once wanted to become a police officer and participated in a police explorer program in high school but then changed his mind because he was afraid he “would end up having to use my gun.” He has worked in information technology for the last 20 years.
He said he had a somewhat negative impression of Potter and that she should have had enough “muscle memory” to know which side of her body her Taser was on.
The 11th is a mother of two who used to work as an IT project manager and has worked as an elections judge. She said on her questionnaire that Wright shouldn’t have died for something such as expired license plate tags — one of the reasons police gave for pulling him over. But said she could reach a verdict based on what she hears in court.
The racial breakdown of the 11 wasn’t immediately clear, as the court has been providing demographic information about the jury at the end of each day’s proceedings. After Wednesday’s session, six of the nine jurors seated were white, one was Black and two were Asian.
The defense on Thursday used one of its peremptory challenges to dismiss a first-year law student who has made comments on social media about cases in which police officers have been convicted. Such challenges cannot be made solely because of a person’s race, age or gender, and prosecutor Matthew Frank objected to the dismissal of the juror, who is Asian.
Judge Regina Chu dismissed Frank’s objection, ruling there was no evidence that the defense strike was based on race.
One of the jurors seated the first day was recalled for questioning Thursday after Chu said he had expressed concerns that his identity had been revealed when he was first questioned. The jury is anonymous by order of the judge. The recall took place off camera and Chu didn’t announce any resolution when a livestream resumed.
Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday, though Chu said they could be moved up. Fourteen jurors — 12 to deliberate plus two alternates — are needed.
Attorneys and the judge have probed potential jurors for what they knew about Wright’s death and about their views of protests against police brutality that were frequent in Minneapolis even before George Floyd’s death.
Potter, who resigned two days after she shot and killed Wright, has told the court she will testify. 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 10 miles (16 kilometers) 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 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.