Downthe Wright’s trial has a predominantly white jury

Downthe Wright's trial has a predominantly white jury

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The trial of a suburban Minneapolis police officer Friday was dominated by a white jury that said it pulled a pistol by mistake when she fatally shot black motorist Downt Wright after stopping traffic.

Opening statements were to begin on Wednesday in the case against 49-year-old Kim Potter, charged with first and second degree manslaughter during the April 11 shooting in a suburb of Brooklyn Center.

Potter, who is white, said she wanted to use her stun gun on Wright after he tried to leave the officers when they tried to arrest him, but instead she grabbed her pistol. Her body camera recorded the shooting.

The last two jurors, both deputies, quickly settled on Friday morning.

Nine of the first 12 jurors – those who will sit if alternates are not needed – are white, one identified as black and two identified as Asian. The group is equally divided between men and women. The two alternatives are also white.

Demonstrators march outside the Hennepin County government center November 30, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Demonstrators march outside the Hennepin County government center November 30, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Steven Mature via Getty Images

The jury roughly matches the demographics of Hennepin County, where about 74% are white. Its composition was closely monitored as legal experts argued that a jury of different race, gender and economic status was necessary to minimize bias in the legal system.

The jury is markedly less diverse than the ones chosen last spring to try former Minneapolis officer Derek Choven in the death of George Floyd. In this case, the 12 participants in the meeting were split 50/50 between whites and non-whites.

Ted Sumpsell-Jones, a professor at Mitchell Hamlin Law School in St. Paul, said the Chauvin jury was “mostly just luck.”

He said that racial and ethnic diversity matters in terms of the supposed legitimacy of the jury, but the attitude towards the police and the police is much more important to the outcome of the case.

“In general, it may be true that black people are more distrustful of the police than whites, but this is not the case for all people,” Sampsell-Jones said. “Many young white people in Hennepin County are much more progressive and anti-cop than, for example, some older blacks.”

Alan Thuerkheimer, a jury consultant based in Chicago, said that even one colored jury could be enough to change the dynamics of the discussion, bringing more depth and a different perspective to the process.

Lawyers and the judge spent a lot of time sifting through potential jurors on protests against police brutality, which were frequent in Minneapolis even before George Floyd’s death.

The questionnaires asked questions about attitudes towards the police, including whether to anticipate police officers, whether they receive the respect they deserve, and whether the jury personally trusts them.

Juror # 11, for example, said she “somewhat agreed” that officers should not be guessed at.

“I think sometimes you just react, and sometimes it’s the wrong reaction, but, you know, mistakes do happen,” she said. “People make mistakes.”

She sat down after saying she could drop that point of view and consider the evidence.

Some jurors strongly disagreed that it was unwise to question the officers’ actions. Juror No. 19, the only black member of the jury, wondered how Potter could have demonstrated such “misjudgment” with her experience.

“This is bonded work, and when you get into this position, you have to understand that it is hard work, and therefore you need to maintain this level of professionalism when you get into this position,” she said of police officers in general.

Potter, who retired two days after Wright’s death, told the court that she would testify. The shooting was videotaped and Potter heard her say, “Taser, stun gun, stun gun,” before firing, and then, “I grabbed the wrong (swearing) pistol.”

Wright, 20, was shot when Chauvin was brought to trial 10 miles (16 km) away for the murder of Floyd. Wright’s death sparked several nights of intense protests in the suburbs.

The most serious charge against Potter requires prosecutors to prove recklessness; less only requires proof of guilty negligence. Minnesota’s Sentencing Guidelines provide for a sentence of just over seven years on a first-degree manslaughter charge and four years in a second-degree manslaughter case. Prosecutors said they would seek a longer sentence.

Find full coverage of the Dunte Wright case at AP: