MINNEAPOLIS — Five jurors were added Wednesday, Dec. 1, in the second day of the manslaughter trial of Kimberly Potter, bringing to nine the number chosen so far to hear the case against the former Brooklyn Center police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright during what started as a traffic stop in April.
Four jurors were chosen Tuesday among the 11 who were questioned, with most excused by Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu because they couldn't remain unbiased, had safety concerns about serving on the jury or for other reasons.
A jury of 14, two of them alternates, will be seated in Potter's trial, which is expected to start on Dec. 8.
One of Potter's attorneys, Paul Engh, revealed while questioning one jury candidate that Potter would testify during the trial. Her defense has said she mistook her handgun for her Taser when she shot Wright on April 11 as he broke free of an officer trying to handcuff him, jumped into his car and attempted to flee.
The defense used one of its peremptory strikes late Wednesday morning and eliminated a Minneapolis man who wrote in the juror questionnaire "grabbing your gun and firing ... seems like a very stupid mistake."
Defense attorney Earl Gray pointed out that the man underlined the last few words of the answer.
Gray also quizzed the man on whether Wright being Black and Potter being white would influence his ability to be an unbiased juror, given that the man wrote in the questionnaire that "I do believe minorities have been and are treated unfairly in the country" by the judicial system.
"I think I could fairly judge" the case regardless of the racial difference between Wright and Potter, he said. Gray's next comment in open court was to use a strike and send the jury candidate home.
Potter confirmed as court opened Wednesday morning that she intends to testify.
"Do you understand it is totally your decision as to whether or not you testify?" Chu asked
"Yes I do, your honor." Potter said.
"Have you had enough time to think about this?"
"Yes ma'am, I wish to testify."
"If you change your mind after the state rests you can do that." Chu said, adding that if Potter opts not to testify, a jury instruction can be added that Potter has no obligation to prove her innocence.
Potter, 49, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter for firing a single shot at Wright, 20, on that Sunday afternoon. Her attorneys, Engh and Gray, plan to call a psychologist who will testify about "slip and capture errors," during which a dominant behavior overrides a less dominant one.
The Minnesota Attorney General's Office and Hennepin County Attorney's Office, led by prosecutor Matthew Frank, have argued that Potter was trained to recognize the difference between the two weapons and acted negligently.
Police body camera footage captured the moment, showing Potter firing her handgun at Wright as she yelled, "Taser! Taser! Taser!" Wright was stopped for expired tabs, and police discovered there was a warrant for his arrest on a gross misdemeanor weapons charge.
Of the jury candidates questioned Tuesday, seven said they had either a "very negative" or "somewhat negative" impression of Potter. One expressed a "somewhat positive" impression of her; the rest were neutral or were not asked the question. Most said they could set aside what they had learned about the case and decide it based on the evidence presented in court.
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