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Jury seated, opening statements in Kimberly Potter manslaughter trial begin Wednesday

Kimberly Potter, who was a police officer in the city of Brooklyn Center just north of Minneapolis, has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree manslaughter charges. Her lawyers have said Potter, 49, mistakenly used her handgun instead of her stun gun in the death of Wright, a 20-year-old shot during a traffic stop.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Jury selection for the manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter is now complete, with two alternates chosen Friday morning, Dec. 3, to sit with the 12 tapped earlier to hear the evidence in connection with the shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright last April.

The alternates will hear the case and fill in should any among the 12 jurors can't continue. Otherwise, the alternates will be excused before closed-door deliberations start in Hennepin County District Court. Judge Regina Chu has scheduled opening statements for Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Of the 14 jurors chosen to hear the case involving a white defendant and a Black victim, 11 are white, two are Asian women and one is a Black woman.

Seven of the jurors are men, and seven are women. Three are in their 20s, two are in their 30s, four are in their 40s, two are in their 50s, two are in their 60s and one is in her 70s.

The jury is less diverse than the one that convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the May 2020 murder of George Floyd . That jury included two multiracial women, three Black men and a Black woman as well as six white people.

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"Counsel, we have our jury," Chu said in the waning moments of Friday's proceedings. "I want to thank both sides for being efficient with the questioning. And I'm really glad we're on track to start when we're supposed to start."

Daunte Wright, 20, was fatally shot by former police officer Kimberly Potter during a traffic stop April 11, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Photo provided by family / Star Tribune / TNS

Chu told the attorneys she will send them a draft of her jury instructions by the end of the day, and they should expect to meet Monday, Dec. 6, to review them and go over autopsy photos and any objections to trial exhibits.

The first alternate selected is a white woman in her 70s with grown children who has been on juries twice before, with one of the cases involving a police officer who injured a man. She said both cases were from many years ago, and she had little memory of the specifics.

In any event, she assured the prosecution and the defense, she she said her involvement in those cases would not affect her ability to judge the evidence in this case.

Asked whether she wants to sit on a third jury, the woman replied, "I've had the benefit of a long life, and I am blessed that I am healthy. ... In that respect, I'd be honored to serve on the jury."

The final alternate chosen fills out the full jury panel. He is a father of a toddler who lives in Eden Prairie.

The man, in his 30s and white, said his child's godfather is a St. Paul police officer, but that relationship would have no effect on his ability to be a fair juror in this case.

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He said "I've heard some stories" about the behavior of particular officers. "There are some police officers who aren't the best," he added.

That said, he added, "I see police officers have a lot of respect, even my friend, for the most part he feels he gets the respect he deserves."

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Kimberly Potter booking photo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

The jurors in the 49-year-old Potter's trial will be asked to render verdicts on two charges: first- and second-degree manslaughter. Potter intends to testify that she believed she had grabbed her Taser but instead shot a noncompliant Wright with her handgun. The shooting occurred during a traffic stop for expired vehicle registration tabs led to officers learning there was a warrant for his arrest on a gross-misdemeanor weapons allegation.

Of the three jurors selected Thursday, one is a white woman in her 40s who has two small children, lives in Minneapolis and has worked as an IT project manager. She wrote on her questionnaire before coming to court that Wright "should not have died for something like expired tabs."

The two others seated Thursday are white men. One is a married IT security consultant and father who grew up in Bloomington. He considered becoming a police officer but changed his mind out of fear "I'd end up having to use my gun."

The 12th juror seated is in his 50s, a Navy veteran who was voluntarily tased while serving, now lives in Minneapolis and works in data protection.

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He said his wife and daughter were victims of an attempted carjacking in south Minneapolis in early 2020. He said his wife was pistol-whipped by four young men who were Hispanic or Black. No one was arrested.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank asked whether that incident would affect him in a case with a white defendant and a Black victim. He said he'd have "no difficulty."

©2021 StarTribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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