Defense team informs juror that Potter will testify in this trial
Welcome to our coverage of the Kim Potter manslaughter trial over the April 11, 2021 shooting death of Duante Wright in a suburb of Minneapolis, when then-police officer Potter accidentally used her Glock 17 pistol in place of her intended Taser.
Today saw four jurors seated in this first day of jury selection. Two prospective jurors were dismissed using peremptory strikes, one by the State and the other by the defense. The remaining five jurors questioned today were dismissed for cause.
Trial Participants & Procedure
The presiding judge in this trial is Judge Regina Chu.
The prosecution team consists of Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was personally present in court. The lead prosecutor is ADA Matthew Frank, who was also a member of the team that prosecuted Derek Chauvin (interestingly enough, in this same courtroom!). Accompanying Frank is ADA Erin Eldridge, whom you may also recall from the Chauvin prosecution team, and ADA Josh Larson.
The defense team consists of Attorney Paul Engh, who appears to be lead counsel, accompanied by Attorney Earl Gray, and Attorney Amanda Montgomery (who appears to be present in some support type role).
The procedure being used by the court for jury selection is to bring in panels of roughly 10 prospective jurors at a time. These are given the general jury instructions as a group, speaking to such things as the burden of proof, reasonable doubt, and so forth.
Then the panel is excused and jurors are brought in one at a time for individual voir dire with more specific questioning, first by Judge Chu, then by either defense counsel Engh or Gray, and finally by ADA Frank. This more specific questioning was to a large degree based on the 13-page jury questionnaire that each member of the panel had previously completed.
I won’t spend time here on the jurors who were dismissed for cause, as they are no longer relevant to the trial. Instead, I’ll summarize the voir dire of the four jurors actually seated, with video of each of their voir dire. Also, I’ll touch briefly upon the two jurors that were dismissed using peremptory strikes, as that decision by each side may also provide some insight into the dynamics of this trial’s jury selection.
One alarming facet of this first day of voir dire is that Judge Chu informed the jurors that she hoped to have this trial over prior to Christmas, but that if that did not occur she would recess the court for the Christmas Holiday. She also notified the jurors that if they were seated they should expect opening arguments to kick off the trial proper the morning of Wednesday, December 8. Personally, I much hope that the two-and-half weeks between December 8 and Christmas will be enough to put this trial behind us.
As we step through today’s voir dire it’s worth remembering that every juror has been subject to the usual campaign of propaganda that accompanies such trials, starting immediately after the event on April 11, through the riots and looting that followed, and continuing through the almost 8 months that bring us to today’s proceedings. That being the case almost all come to jury selection with an existing negative sentiment to defendant Potter.
That doesn’t necessarily disqualify them from sitting as a juror, so long as they are able to set that pre-existing bias aside and render a verdict based solely on the evidence and law provided to them in court.
Juror #2: Seated
Juror #2 presents audibly as an older white male, who described his work as being a technical editor of biology science journals of some sort.
In questioning by Judge Chu, it was revealed that in his jury questionnaire he had indicated that he was neutral towards Potter, but also that he didn’t understand why an officer would attempt to disable a driver of a moving vehicle when doing so could result in injury to others. He also felt very unfavorable towards Blue Lives Matter, perceiving it as not really an effort to offer support to the police, but rather merely an effort to undercut Black Lives Matter.
In questioning by Defense Counsel Gray, Juror #2 indicated that he’d be prepared to judge the case based on the evidence and argument in court and that he wouldn’t do so until he’d heard the defense as well as the State’s presentation of their case.
Juror #2 also indicated that he didn’t believe the justice system was fair, in the sense that people with greater access to legal resources will have always have the advantage. He won’t get any argument on that from me. Gray wisely pointed out that in this case, it was his client, the defendant, who had the more limited resources relative to the prosecution.
In questioning by ADA Frank—who conducted all the voir dire for the State today—Juror #12 indicated that he believed in the need for police reform, but that he was opposed to the notion of defunding the police, having said in his questionnaire that he strongly agreed that the police in his community help keep him safe.
After only about 15 minutes of voir dire, Juror #2 was seated on the jury and told to report back the morning of December 8 for opening statements.
Juror #6: Seated
Juror #6 presented as a woman of mature enough years to have four adult children (one of whom sadly had pre-deceased her), and who is a retired school teacher. Unlike the roughly 15 minutes spent on voir dire of Juror #2, questioning of Juror #6 took a full 40 minutes.
In questioning by Judge Chu, Juror #6 conceded that she came to the trial with a very negative impression of Kimberly Potter, but also a very negative expression of Duante Wright, finding fault on both sides.
She also noted that sometimes the criminal justice system seemed biased, for example in cases where the makeup of the jury did not reflect the diversity of the community. She also noted that she was aware of cases where it had initially seemed a person was guilty, where they were convicted, and then later more information is discovered and we realize the conviction was wrongful.
Alarm bells went off for me here when Juror #6 described how she’s a retired teacher who gets her news information and analysis from National Public Radio—neither of those sounds favorable to the defense to me.
It was in questioning by Defense Counsel Engh that we first learned that the defense intends to have their client, Kimberly Potter, take the witness stand in her own defense in this trial. I expect this is really unavoidable, given how many of the jurors—including #6—came to this trial wondering how such an experienced police officer with 26 years on the job could have failed to distinguish between her Glock 17 and her
Where the questionnaire suggested that perhaps police officers should not be second-guessed about decisions while on duty, juror #6 strongly disagreed, saying their training should hold them to a high standard, and failure to adhere to that standard deserves second-guessing. Hard to disagree. Engh followed up on this issue by ensuring that Juror #6 was prepared to be open-minded when she heard testimony on that training.
Juror #6 also expressed a strong preference for increased gun control laws, although she appeared to understand little about guns, had never owned one, and fired a shotgun once 50 years prior and never tried it again. This could be a real problem for the defense if this were a non-police shooting, but presumably, even Juror #6 would concede that police need to be armed.
Curiously, when the defense was done questioning Juror #6, Judge Chu immediately informed her that she would be seated on the jury—forgetting that the State had not yet had a chance to question her. As you might imagine, the State pointed out the error, and ADA Frank was given his opportunity to question Juror #6.
Frank asked her to confirm that she would evaluate the testimony of defendant Potter no differently than she would any other testimony from any other witness, and not give Potter’s testimony inherently greater weight because she was a police officer at the time of these events.
Because Juror #6 also came to the trial with a negative impression of Duante Wright, Frank focused on ensuring that she was aware that it was Potter, not Wright, who was on trial here.
After 40 minutes of this, Juror #6 became the second juror seated on this trial and told to return on December 8 for opening arguments.
Juror #7: Seated
Juror #7 presented as a youngish male, who works as a night shift manager at a Target distribution center, came to the trial with a somewhat negative view of Potter. Based on his initial view of the video of the event he felt it was “kind of clear what happened,” but he also professed to be open to new information and to change his opinion if warranted.
In his questionnaire, it turned out that Juror #7 claimed to have once owned a Taser himself, although on further questioning it became clear that it was more an inexpensive press-stun type of device which in any case he’d had taken by Canadian customs on a trip some years prior and never bothered replacing.
Defense Counsel Earl Gray conducted the defense voir dire of Juror #7. Here Juror #7 was asked about his questionnaire response that he was slightly distrustful of police. Heresponded that this was true, but he also recognized that police have a very hard job he wouldn’t be capable of doing himself, and when he needs police-type help he himself reaches out to the police for that help.
Asked about his thoughts on the criminal justice system, Juror #7 paraphrased Churchill to note that it may not be perfect, but it’s the best we have.
ADA Frank once again conducted the voir dire for the State. This questioning didn’t take long, and I don’t have many notes on it, as not much happened.
In any case, after 30 minutes of voir dire Juror #7 was the third juror seated and told to return on December 8.
Juror #11: Seated
Juror #11 presented as a woman, who repeatedly characterized herself as “rule follower.”
In a remarkable exchange right out of a lawyer joke book, Judge Chu asked her about an event described in her questionnaire in which a friend of hers was killed—as in, murdered—in a fatal stabbing attack.
Judge Chu then asked, “Did this friend recover from this stabbing?”
Huh? The judge herself had just used the phrase “fatal stabbing.” Not sure how one recovers from one of those. In any case, Juror #11 naturally answered, “No.”
Judge Chu then followed up with, “So he or she is still in very bad physical condition?”
Judge—you yourself described this as a fatal stabbing. Juror #11’s response was straightforward: “No, she passed away,” with no apparent sarcasm in her voice whatever.
Then Judge Chu seemed surprised that the friend who had been the victim of the fatal stabbing had passed away as a result.
This bit was funny and brief enough, that I’ll embed it right here:
Attorney Gray conducted voir dire of Juror #11 for the defense, and ADA Frank for the State, but nothing much came of this except they both agreed that Juror #11 was acceptable to them.
And so after about 30 minutes of voir dire, Juror #11 was seated as the fourth juror in this case and told to report back on December 8.
Juror #8: State peremptory: Retired firefighter Captain
Juror #8 was a retired firefighter, a rank of Captain at retirement, who presented to my ear as an extremely reasonable, unbiased, open-minded juror. I won’t spend much time detailing his voir dire, because he was stricken by the State’s peremptory and so is no longer relevant to the trial.
I would, however, encourage you to view the roughly 35 minutes of video because this very reasonable prospective juror proved to be just the type of juror that the State does not want seated, and upon whom the State used its first peremptory strike.
Curiously, at first ADA Frank informed the court that Juror #8 was acceptable to him, but there was then an abruptly called huddle of the prosecution team, after which the decision was made by the State to strike Juror #11.
Juror #15: Defense peremptory: Apparent woke social activist
In contrast to Juror #11, Juror #15, presented as a youngish woman, was fully woke indoctrinated, and came across as an aggressively political activist loon trying to lie her way onto the jury.
Judge Chu noted that Juror #15 had actually worked in the campaign to elect Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was leading this very prosecution, but #15 assured the court that she could nevertheless be unbiased.
Defense counsel Engh would note in his voir dire of her that #15 had actually smiled at Ellison in happy recognition when she saw him in the courtroom.
Further, he noted her questionnaire described her interest in seeking societal accountability in a world of systemic racism—but in court, she claimed that although the entire system was racist, she wouldn’t hold that against the defendant who was the enforcement arm of that system at the time of these events.
Engh also led Juror #15 to reveal that if she had a personal friend who was considering becoming a police officer, she would question them about that choice, and ask if such a career was “really consistent with their moral values.” She further characterized Blue Lives Matter as a calling card not for supporting the police but rather for radical right white supremacists.
No anti-police bias there, I guess.
Juror #15 also favored adopting a gun control scheme in America modeled on that of Japan. Yah!
Despite all this obvious bias and a sidebar conference with Judge Chu, it appeared the Judge was unconvinced by the defense to dismiss Juror #15 for cause, and the defense was obliged to use a peremptory strike to remove her.
Tomorrow: Daunte Wright Shooting Trial LIVE: Jury Selection, Day 2
Be sure to join us at Legal Insurrection tomorrow morning for our ongoing LIVE coverage—including real-time commenting and streaming of the trial proceedings, and then again at day’s end for our analysis of the day’s events.
And that’s all I have for all of you at the moment.
Until tomorrow morning:
You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.
Know the law so you’re hard to convict.
Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
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