On April 11, 2021 Daunte Wright was subjected to a traffic stop due to expired registration and air fresheners hanging off the rearview mirror. Officers soon learned that Mr. Wright had a warrant out for his arrest, had him exit his vehicle, and attempted to take him into custody. A skirmish ensued, where Mr. Wright reentered his vehicle in attempt flee the scene.
During the events, Officer Kim Potter, a 26-year police veteran, discharged her service weapon. Mr. Wright was shot once to the side of the chest and was declared dead on the scene when paramedics were unable to resuscitate him. Body camera footage captured the entirety of the incident. In the footage, Officer Potter can be heard threatening to tase Mr. Wright while clearly brandishing her firearm. A medical examination determined that Mr. Wright died of a single gunshot wound that struck his heart and deemed the manner of death a homicide.
The State subsequently charged Officer Potter with one count first-degree manslaughter—predicated on reckless use/handling of a firearm (Minn. Stat. 609.20(2)) and one count second-degree manslaughter (Minn. Stat. 609.205(1)).
Jury selection commences on November 30, 2021. Already, however, both parties have stipulated to having 18 prospective jurors struck for cause.
During the jury selection process, both the State and the Defense question prospective jurors in an attempt to discern any potential biases that may exist within the members that would leave them unable to try the case fairly. Both sides have challenges for cause and peremptory challenges, which may be used to excuse members. Challenges for cause may be used by the parties without limitation, so long as a legitimate explanation for the challenge is presented to the Court. Under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.02 subd 4(3)(b), there are generally 6 predominant challenges for cause that may require a prospective juror to be excused:
Preemptory challenges are dissimilar to challenges for cause in that they are limited in number, prescribed by the Court prior to the beginning of jury selection, and do not require any rationale to be presented to the Court to support the challenge. In this case, the State has 3 peremptory challenges, and the Defense has 5.
The fact that the parties have stipulated to 18 strikes for cause comes as a likely result of pretrial questionnaires that have already been circulated to the prospective jurors. The stipulation to each strike means that both the State and the Defense have agreed that the answers to the questionnaires indicate that the anonymous 18 people would somehow be unable to hear the case and make a decision impartially.
The parties have also stipulated to a partial sequestration order. This stands as an agreement between the State and the Defense that the Court require the identities of the jurors be hidden from the public throughout the entirety of the proceedings. This is commonplace in high-profile proceedings to ensure that jurors are not tainted. This also leaves open the possibility for a full sequestration, which would require the jurors to be remanded to an undisclosed location when trial is not in session and stripped of all items that would allow them access to media. This is only done in rare circumstances when the Court believes that it would be impossible for jurors to avoid outside influence absent such an order.
Check back for updates on this developing story. A seasoned attorney at BK Law Group could also answer any questions you have about criminal cases and jury selection– call today to learn more.