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Daunte Wright Shooting Trial: 12 Jurors Now Seated

Daunte Wright Shooting Trial: 12 Jurors Now Seated

Two more jurors needed for 12 + 2 alternates; Defense has one strike left

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.

Three more jurors were seated today, for a total of 12 seated jurors. Two more jurors are needed as alternates, and we should expect they’ll be seated tomorrow.

The defense exhausted two of its three remaining strikes in removing two prospective jurors, leaving the defense with only one peremptory strike going into tomorrow’s proceedings.  The State, of course, exhausted its last peremptory strike yesterday.

With respect to one of the defense strikes today, of Juror #46, an Asian woman, the State made a Batson challenge, but this was rather summarily dismissed by Judge Chu.

Juror #40: Seated

Juror #40 presented as a white male who described his profession as that of an IT security professional.  Although he spent about a half-hour in voir dire, not a minute of that was by the State prosecutors, who simply passed on him without questioning.

On voir dire by Judge Chu, #40 had affirmed that he had somewhat negative impressions of both Potter and Wright, but that these would not affect his ability to be fair.  He did indicate that if he learned that Potter had additional issues as a police officer, that would influence his perception of her.

In terms of prior interaction with law enforcement, #40 had a previous DUI, but indicated that he thought he’d been treated fairly, and “got what I deserved.”  He also had a couple of memorable stops on his motorcycle—once for loud pipes, once for riding without a helmet in a different state—that he seemed less accepting of.

He also expressed concerns about his own safety, and the safety of his home and family, if people were upset with the verdict—but he said he was equally concerned about such dangers in the case of either a guilty or not guilty verdict, such that it would not influence the outcome.

In his questionnaire, he’d noted that it didn’t appear to him that the arrest of Wright by the male officer was being “handled” in as “controlled” a manner as it should have.

He also indicated in the questionnaire that he thought Potter should have known she had drawn her pistol rather than her Taser as a result of “muscle memory” from training and long experience as a police officer—like a driver knows which pedal is the brake and which is the gas.

He also noted that Duante Wright himself made a poor decision in attempting to get back into the car and that he was aware that Wright was “known to the police” even prior to this incident.

Juror #40 himself had, while in high school, been interested in being a police officer, and had participated in a Police Explorer activity that sounded much like what Kyle Rittenhouse had been participating in.

Ultimately, #40’s reason for not pursuing a police career was the fear that he might someday be required to use his firearm.

Juror #40 strongly disagreed that one should not second-guess police officer decisions, saying anybody should be subject to having their actions reviewed.  He was mostly favorable to both Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter, although he didn’t feel Black Lives Matter was actually achieving any tangible outcomes.

He also owns a shotgun, although he indicated he’d not used it in some 20 years.

All in all, #40 felt like a modest win for the defense.  IT people are generally accustomed to and amenable to ongoing training and education, and adjusting their understanding as a result of such training and education, as the field is ever-evolving.

I expect there will a great deal of use-of-force education offered by the defense, and jurors able and willing to keep an open mind and be informed by that education should shift in a more favorable direction towards Potter.

Race/Gender Makeup of 10 Jurors Seated by Mid-Day Break

Local news is reporting the following with respect to race and gender of the 10 jurors seated by today’s lunch break:   “So far the jury is five men, five women. Seven white people, two Asian jurors, and one Black juror.”  This is exclusive of the last two jurors seated today, #48 and #50, but #48 is certainly a woman, and #50 is certainly a white male.

Juror #48: Seated

Juror #48, apparently a woman by voice, worked in IT management for tech companies.

She had written in her jury questionnaire that Duante should not have died for an expired license tag, the result didn’t match the crime.  Asked about this by Judge Chu, #48 assured the court that she could set that opinion aside, and would be open-minded and fair.

Juror #48 had also previously protested outside a local ICE (immigration) facility to protest the putting of immigrant “children in cages.”

Based on all of that, I’d bet on the defense using a peremptory strike.

The defense did not, however, strike juror #48, but declared her acceptable to them.

The State obviously liked what it saw, and passed on dismissing her after a very short voir dire.

So, juror #48 became the 11th juror seated on this trial.

Juror #55: Seated

Juror #55 presented as a middle-aged white male who had previously been a machinist mate in the Navy and currently worked as an IT engineer.

This juror definitely had some interesting back story, including having been Tasered while in the Navy as part of his training as a gate guard and engaging in recreational medieval steel fights involving suits of steel armor and steel weapons (with dulled edges).

His wife and daughter had about a year earlier been victims of a carjacking carried out by young Hispanic or black men, but he said he could separate that event from this case.

He owned several firearms, including a couple of shotguns, a rifle, and two handguns, but didn’t seem very active in any type of shooting sport.

Juror #55 indicated that he was largely neutral on both Potter and Wright, as other than seeing the body cam video once he had no real substantive information on the event.

In any case, ultimately both the defense and the State (which has no more strikes) passed on juror #55, so he became the twelfth juror seated on this trial.

At that point, Judge Chu called it a day, and the court recessed.

Struck Jurors: By the Defense

The State began today’s proceedings having exhausted all three of its peremptory strikes.  The defense, however, came into the day with three of its five strikes remaining.  By day’s end, however, the defense would have exhausted two of those leaving it with one remaining peremptory strike.

Juror #46: Struck by the Defense, Celebrated Cop Convictions

One of the jurors struck by the defense, #46, clearly desperately needed to be struck by the defense.

On initial voir dire by Judge Chu, #46 acknowledged writing in her juror questionnaire that she was sad for the victim and sad for the officer ending a long career in such a fashion. She also characterized Duante Wright’s death as another traumatic event for a city already well-traumatized.

We also learned that #46 was in her first year of law school, after a political science undergraduate degree, and intended to practice in the area of public policy.  My read on this after her next remarks was that her political science degree was likely of the Marxist bent, and her pursuit of public policy would be similarly focused.

Then the wheels came off as far as her acceptability to the defense.  Juror #46 was an activist seeking “equity” reforms throughout the criminal justice system.  While she didn’t explicitly call for defunding the police, she did call for a “different allocation of resources”—which is, of course, largely what “defund the police” means.

Juror #46 also had a negative view of Blue Lives Matter, noting that one could take off one’s uniform at the end of the day, but not one’s skin color, a sentiment later echoed by juror #55 (who was seated).

The final nail in the coffin, however, emerged when Attorney Engh for the defense noted that he’d reviewed her social media postings, and had found numerous posts unfavorable to the police, and celebratory of trials in which the police officer defendant was convicted.  Juror #46 tried to wave this away, but that wasn’t happening, and the defense used a peremptory strike to remove her.

Batson Challenge to Defense Strike of #46

Later in the day, we would learn that the State had apparently filed a Batson challenge to the defense peremptory strike of #46.  A Batson challenge alleges that a juror was struck for reasons of race or gender, which is impermissible.  Juror #46, we discovered at that time, was not just female but Asian.

Judge Chu made short work of this, however, noting that there were race-neutral and gender-neutral rationales for the defense to strike #46, and also that there were already two Asian jurors deemed acceptable by the defense and seated on the jury.

Juror #51: Struck by Defense

The second juror subject to a peremptory strike today by the defense, Juror #51, actually looked to me like a juror favorable to the defense, right up until the end—and even then I didn’t think the defense would strike her.

Juror #51 presented as a white woman, who worked in a bank in the fraud area, and who came to the trial with a somewhat negative impression of Potter and Wright both. She assured Judge Chu she could set those views aside.

Her brother had served in the National Guard and actually guarded this same Hennepin County Courthouse during the Derek Chauvin trial. She recounted that he had told her that he’d been screamed at by protestors while working outside the courthouse, then praised by the people who appreciated the security when he was inside the courthouse on breaks.  She also had a sister who worked for a Sheriff’s office, though not as a sworn officer.

Juror #51 expressed some considerable concern about her identity being eventually disclosed as one of the jurors on this trial, which of course eventually it would.

She had also served previously on a criminal jury, a drug case, and had found the jury service educational.  She also had an aunt and uncle who had been robbed on vacation, and a sister whose husband had been threatening her—the police response to all this was satisfactory to her.

She also had an educational background in criminal justice, primarily in an evidence collection type of function.

With that criminal justice background and prior jury service, then, it was a bit shocking when she told Defense counsel Earl Gray on voir dire that she would have great difficulty setting aside any failure of defendant Potter testifying at trial.

Gray pressed her on this—even though the defense has told several jurors that Potter will be testifying—and noted that she should know that the defendant has an absolute 5th Amendment right to not testify, and her failure to testify is not to be used against her.

But Juror #51 was insistent she would have difficulty setting aside a failure to testify and would be wondering just what it was that the defendant was hiding.

And with that, the defense used a peremptory strike to remove #51 from the jury.

Dismissed Jurors

I don’t want to spend much time on the dismissed jurors, except to make a general observation about the State’s approach to them.

In particular, three of the four jurors dismissed today explicitly stated their bias against the defense, and the State actually fought to keep two of these.

The first, #33, simply told Judge Chu upfront that he saw Duante Wright in his own students that he teaches, and simply could not put that aside.

The second, #35, claimed she could be unbiased, but conceded that she had regularly participated in social justice protests including events in which she held “Justice for Duante!” signs.   Interestingly, the reason Judge Chu gave for dismissing this juror was not her patent bias, but rather that #35 had a trip scheduled during the period of the trial.

In both cases, ADA Matthew Frank fought to try to rehabilitate these patently biased jurors and have them seated on the jury.

The third juror dismissed this morning, #39, had such a poor grasp of English that although he struck me as fair and impartial he was, in my opinion, technically incompetent to serve as a juror.  It seemed likely he would not understand substantive testimony and would have great difficulty during deliberations.  Indeed, I often could not tell what he was saying, and he often seemed to translate questions in his head from English to some more familiar language before he answered them.

Ultimately Judge Chu granted the defense request to dismiss #39 for cause—this time not only over the objection of the State and its efforts to rehabilitate him, but even after the State insisted on putting on the record its objections and its belief that #39 would have been just fine as a juror.  (Judge Chu actually chuckled at this.)

Then in the afternoon, the court dismissed Juror #52 for cause, after she shared with the court a badly told story about how a friend of hers involved in a hit-and-run (not the victim vehicle!) was later castigated by “Detective” Potter for having a black boyfriend who would be a bad influence on her.

Juror #52 was sufficiently excited about this story that even she quite forthrightly acknowledged she could not be fair and impartial on this trial for this defendant, and Judge Chu dismissed her for cause without objection by either the defense or State.

Here is the voir dire of those dismissed jurors:

Juror #33: Dismissed (teacher)

Juror #35: Dismissed (protestor)

Juror #39: Dismissed (language issue)

Juror #52: Dismissed (friend’s Potter encounter)

Tomorrow:  Daunte Wright Shooting Trial LIVE: Jury Selection, Day 4

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:

Remember

You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.

Know the law so you’re hard to convict.

Stay safe!

–Andrew

Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. Nothing in this content establishes an attorney-client relationship, nor confidentiality. If you are in immediate need of legal advice, retain a licensed, competent attorney in the relevant jurisdiction.

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Comments

It took the court a half hour of pure agony to finally dismiss a prospective juror who didn’t understand English. That’s impressive even for government work.

I wish I could say “Unbelievable,” but regrettably by now I’m a believer. What a farrago. The judge seems about as sharp as a cue ball.

Can the prosecution even make a Batson challenge? I haven read the case in years, but my recollection uis that the underlying premise of the challenge is that kicking a juror for racist reasons is a violation of the defendant’s right to Due Process. How does any premptory challenge by the defense amount to the state denying a defendant due process?

Why didn’t the defence strike juror #48?

    Olinser in reply to BillyHW. | December 3, 2021 at 3:35 am

    They have very limited strikes to start, have only ONE remaining at this point, and still 2 more jurors to go.

    It may be that there is somebody MUCH WORSE coming up in the next couple jurors that they are preserving their last strike for, and they have to settle for the lesser of 2 evils.

If a prospective juror celebrates cop convictions, why does the defence need to use one of their pre-emptory strikes in a case involving a cop? Shouldn’t the judge just dismiss her?

    Olinser in reply to BillyHW. | December 3, 2021 at 3:33 am

    SHOULD. But didn’t.

    Appealable but the defense can do nothing but strike them. If they allowed them on the jury and there were a guilty verdict then they’d have to HOPE that they could win on appeal. Not a good defense strategy.

Why on earth would the prosecution do a Batson challenge on an Asian woman struck by the defence? Makes no sense…

    Olinser in reply to BillyHW. | December 3, 2021 at 3:32 am

    Political bullshit to try and turn this into a race issue for headlines. They KNOW that the media won’t report the facts. They’ll just support that the heroic prosecutors challenged the evil racist defense team of the racist cop.