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Jury selection begins in trial of ex-Minnesota officer who shot Daunte Wright

NATHAN LAYNE

JURY selection began on Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of a white former Minnesota police officer charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a Black man whose April death sparked protests in a state already on edge over George Floyd’s killing.

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.

Her lawyers also have accused the prosecution of disregarding the conduct of Wright, who they have said resisted arrest and attempted to drive away. Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police force, resigned after the incident.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Regina Chu started the jury selection process by asking prospective jurors basic questions including about their health and whether they could follow the law as instructed.

“Our sole purpose and our obligation is to ensure that the jurors who decide this case are neutral, open-minded and fair,” Chu told the potential jurors. “Your verdict must be based on the evidence you hear during the trial.”

Wright’s shooting occurred only a few miles (km) from the courthouse where Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted in April of murder in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, during an arrest in May 2020.

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Floyd’s death sparked demonstrations in many U.S. cities last year against police brutality and racism. Wright’s shooting triggered several nights of demonstrations in Brooklyn Center, with many viewing the incident as yet another example of police violence against Black Americans.

Wright was pulled over by police because he had an air freshener hanging from his car’s rearview mirror and the license plate tabs had expired. In addition to Potter, two other officers were on the scene as they attempted to detain Wright after finding that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for a misdemeanour weapons violation.

Potter can be heard on police body camera video shouting “I’ll tase you,” while pointing her handgun at Wright. He was attempting to get back behind the steering wheel after struggling to get away from the grip of another officer. Potter then shot Wright in the chest.

Seconds after firing, Potter said she grabbed the wrong gun, adding, “I’m going to go to prison,” according to an amended criminal complaint submitted to the court in September.

Jury selection is expected to take about a week. Opening statements are slated to start on December 8. Chu, who has ordered the jury fully sequestered once deliberations begin, said she expects the trial to be finished before December 24.

In Minnesota, the maximum sentences for first- and second-degree manslaughter are 15 years and 10 years, respectively.

By The African Mirror

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