Daunte Wright murder trial jurors come under the microscope
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – When lawyers screen potential jurors for the trial of a suburban Minneapolis cop who says she intended to use her Taser instead of her weapon when she killed Daunte Wright, they will take a close look at their attitudes towards the police, the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protests and movements.
Jury selection begins Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter. The pool has already responded to questionnaires similar to those used this year in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial for the murder of George Floyd. About 200 potential jurors have been asked to provide detailed information on what they already know about the Potter case and whether they have positive or negative impressions of her and Wright.
Potter shot Wright as he attempted to pull away from a traffic stop on April 11 – a time when Chauvin’s trial was taking place and tensions were already high in Minneapolis-St. Paul district. Wright’s death sparked several nights of protests at the Brooklyn Center, which rekindled painful memories of the sometimes violent unrest that erupted after Floyd’s death in May 2020.
Prospective jurors were asked if they or a relative had participated in “any of the law enforcement-related protests or marches that have taken place in the Twin Cities area in the past two years.” If they participated, they were asked if they carried a sign and what it was saying. They were asked if they or someone they knew had been injured or suffered property damage during any of these protests.
They were also asked to explain whether they thought the community had been “positively or negatively affected by any of the protests”. And they were asked to specify whether they or a relative “has ever helped support or advocated for or against police reform.” There was also a question of whether they supported the funding of the police.
Many of the questions were the same at Chauvin’s trial, where jury selection took 11 days. Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu’s schedule for Potter’s trial includes six days for jury selection, with opening statements scheduled for December 8.
Potter’s defense team can remove up to five jurors without giving a reason, compared to three for the prosecution, which is the norm in Minnesota courts. In Chauvin’s case, where the pre-trial publicity was much more intense, the defense was allowed 15 strikes against nine for prosecutors. Neither party needs to justify resorting to a so-called peremptory strike unless the other party claims it was because of the race, ethnicity or gender of a juror.
Potter says she made an innocent mistake when she shot Wright during a traffic stop. She and two other police officers at the scene, including one she was training, decided to arrest Wright after learning there was an arrest warrant against him on a serious misdemeanor charge.
As the 20-year-old black man attempted to start, Potter, who is white, can be heard on his body cam video saying “Taser, Taser Taser” before she fires, followed by “I have. grabbed the wrong (expletive) gun. “The video shows her holding her handgun for about five seconds before firing.
Prosecutors charged Potter, who resigned two days after the shooting, with first and second degree manslaughter, claiming she was an experienced officer who had been trained to know better. The most serious charge requires prosecutors to prove their recklessness; the lesser only requires that they prove culpable negligence. Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of just over seven years for first-degree manslaughter and four years for second-degree manslaughter. But prosecutors said they would seek a longer sentence.
Lawyers who are not involved in the case expect both sides to give jurors extensive scrutiny, as they did in Chauvin’s trial. The pool will come from Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis and is the most populous county in the state. Hennepin is 74% white, 14% black, 7.5% Asian and 7% Latino, according to census data. Brooklyn Center, the suburb where Wright was killed, is one of the most diverse communities in the state, with 46% white, 29% black, 16% Asian, and 15% Latino.
Oakland, Calif. Civil rights lawyer John Burris, who won a $ 2.8 million settlement for the family of a man killed by a transport officer in Oakland who went to jail for seizing his gun instead of a Taser in 2009, said jurors generally give police the benefit of the doubt. But he said times have changed since Floyd was killed. If the jury selected for Potter is as diverse as Chauvin’s jury, which is half made up of people of color, he predicted that they would take a thoughtful approach.
Mike Brandt, a local lawyer who is also not involved in the case, said if he was part of the defense team, he would prefer the case to be tried in a rural or suburban county. He said Hennepin tended to be “more on the liberal side,” with more people supporting police accountability.
Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative reporter Mohamed Ibrahim contributed to this story.
Find the full PA coverage of the Daunte Wright case at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright