MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The suburban Minneapolis police officer who shot Daunte Wright will testify at her trial, her attorney said Tuesday as jury selection began with potential panelists being questioned closely about their attitudes on policing, protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.
One of Kim Potter's attorneys, Paul Engh, told a potential juror that she would hear directly from Potter about the traffic stop that ended in the death of the 20-year-old Black motorist last April. Potter, who is white, has said she meant to use her Taser on Wright but grabbed her handgun by mistake.
“Officer Potter will testify and tell you what she remembers happened, so you will know not just from the video but from the officers at the scene and Officer Potter herself what was occurring,” Engh said. “I think (you) should be quite interested in hearing what she had to say.”
Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter. She shot Wright as he tried to drive away from a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center on April 11 — a time when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial was underway for the killing of George Floyd and tensions were high in the area. Wright’s death sparked several nights of protests in Brooklyn Center and revived painful memories of the sometimes violent unrest that erupted after Floyd’s death in May 2020.
The prospective jurors summoned Tuesday had already responded to questionnaires similar to those used in Chauvin’s murder trial . Roughly 200 people were asked what they knew about the Potter case, their impressions of her and Wright, and their views on protests and policing in the Minneapolis area in recent years.
The first juror to be seated Tuesday, a man who said he is a medical editor, said he has a very unfavorable view of the “blue lives matter” slogan that has emerged in recent years. He said he believes it’s less about supporting police than about countering the Black Lives Matter movement.
But he also said he opposes the movement to abolish or defund the police.
“I absolutely believe there’s a need for change," he said. "But I think defund the police sends a message, a negative message. ... I don’t agree with that message and I don’t agree with the approach that was taken to defund the police.”
Also seated Tuesday were a retired special education teacher and a bass player in a rock band who works as an operations manager at Target.
The former teacher said she is a mother of four adult daughters, including one she lost to breast cancer nearly two years ago. Asked if she could be fair, the woman said yes and added: “I’m a retired teacher and one of my students told me one time that I’m strict-fair.”
The Target employee was seated despite saying he is somewhat distrustful of police, though he added: "I do recognize that it’s a very hard job … and it’s not something I could do myself.”
Four jurors were dismissed, three of them because they expressed strong views of the case. One woman said on her questionnaire that she viewed Potter very unfavorably and she should have known the difference between her gun and her Taser. A man expressed wonder that a seasoned officer could make such a mistake, and told defense attorneys, “I don't know if you'd want to select me.”
One man questioned in court Tuesday described Black Lives Matter as “Marxist Communist” and suggested Wright was to blame for his death: “I think if he would've listened to the (police) directions, he would still be with us.”