Mostly White Jury Selected In Trial of Minnesota Officer Who Mistook Taser for a Gun In Fatal Traffic Stop, Social Media Users Cry Foul

·4 min read

A mostly white jury selection in the trial against former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer Kim Potter, who is charged in the April shooting death of Daunte Wright, is causing a stir ahead of opening statements scheduled for Dec. 8.

The twelve seated jurors are equally split between men and women, but nine identify as white, one as Black, and two as Asian. There are also two alternates, a man and a woman, who both identify as white.

According to the Census, Hennepin County — the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center where the shooting happened is located in the county, which has a population of more than 1.2 million — has a racial demographic breakdown of 74 percent white, 14 percent Black and 7 percent Asian.

Kim Potter and Daunte Wright. (Photos: Hennepin County Sheriff, Daunte Wright family)
Kim Potter and Daunte Wright. (Photos: Hennepin County Sheriff, Daunte Wright family)

Potter, who is white, is charged with first and second-degree manslaughter after claiming to have mistakenly shot Wright, a Black motorist, when she confused her gun for her Taser during the April 11 traffic stop. Potter’s bodycam captured the encounter showing she and a partner preparing to apprehend Wright before he re-entered his vehicle, in an attempt to flee the scene.

Potter is heard yelling, “Taser!” before fatally shooting the young father in the chest. Two days after the shooting Potter resigned. She is expected to take the stand during the trial.

The incident took place just miles away from the location where George Floyd, also a Black male, was killed during a police encounter the previous year with former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. At the time of Wright’s death Chauvin was standing trial. But unlike Potter’s trial, disgraced officer Chauvin faced a more racially diverse jury with three Black men, two Black women, two who individual identifying as multiracial, and the remaining were white.

Jury selection is a key component of any trial due to the belief that diverse selection is believed to yield a “more thorough” evaluation of evidence and broader perspective used to reach a verdict.

Given the judicial system’s reputation for being disproportionately biased against people of color, some believe the predominantly white jury for Potter’s trial may pose a threat to a non-biased verdict. But given the county’s racial makeup, for some the jury selection is representative of Hennepin and not a nefarious attempt at clearing the former officer in the fatal shooting.

“That is not a jury of his peers,” wrote one Twitter user, perhaps misunderstanding the 800-year-old legal concept — a defendant has the right to face a jury of his “peers” — the United States adapted from English common law that dates to King John’s signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

“How do every white person accused of killing a Black person always have an all white jury,” questioned another Twitter user.

Ted Sampsell-Jones, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, told The Associated Press that Chauvin’s diverse jury was “luck of the draw.” At the time the Chauvin jury members were being selected this past spring social activists, including civil rights attorney Ben Crump, staunchly expressed the idea that a diverse jury was needed for a fair trial.

Still, Sampsell-Jones suggests that the predominantly white jury seated for Potter’s trial does not have to be as a blacK-and-white as white people supporting the former cop and not seeing the incident through unbiased eyes.

“It might be true in general that Black people are more distrustful of police than white people, but it isn’t true as to every individual,” said Sampsell-Jones. “Lots of young white people in Hennepin County are far more progressive and anti-cop than some older Black people, for example.”

Of the twelve jurors selected only one — juror No. 19 identified as a Black female — was outwardly critical of Potter’s mishap in firing her gun and not the Taser. “This is a servitude job, and when you get into this position, you need to understand that it’s a tough job and so you have to maintain that level of professionalism when you get into that position.” Overall, multiple jurors expressed the idea that an officer’s actions are not above being questioned.

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