MINNEAPOLIS — Jury selection in the trial of Kimberly Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright, began Nov. 30 in Hennepin County's Fourth Judicial District.
Opening statements are currently scheduled to begin Wednesday, Dec. 8, but Judge Regina Chu said the pace of jury selection may allow opening statements to begin early.
Potter and her attorneys told Judge Chu that she plans to testify in her own defense.
Here is a guide to the key individuals who will be seen and heard throughout the trial.
Kim Potter, defendant
Kim Potter is on trial for first- and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.
Potter, who is white, was a Brooklyn Center police officer who shot Wright during a traffic stop on April 11, 2021. Potter's defense claims she intended to use her Taser on Wright, but instead, accidentally grabbed her service weapon and shot him.
Potter is a 26-year police veteran, and as recently as 2019, served as the Brooklyn Center Police Department's police union president. She was also a Field Training Officer (FTO), responsible for working with younger officers.
Potter resigned from the department in the days after the shooting, and was subsequently arrested on manslaughter charges and released on bond.
If found guilty, Potter would face a presumptive sentence of seven years in prison, according to KARE 11's Lou Raguse, who has been following the case since the fatal shooting. Minnesota's statutory maximum for second-degree manslaughter is 10 years behind bars, but experts tell KARE11 that scenario is extremely unlikely.
The state has indicated they will ask Judge Chu to depart upward in her sentencing if Potter is convicted.
Judge Regina M. Chu
Judge Regina Chu was first appointed to the Fourth Judicial District Court for Hennepin County in 2002 by former Gov. Jesse Ventura. She won her first full-term election in 2004, and was re-elected in 2010 and 2016.
In early November, just weeks before the trial was set to begin, Chu became the target of protesters, who stood outside her home and demanded cameras be allowed in the courtroom. Chu made a ruling months earlier prohibiting video or audio devices during the trial, but eventually switched course on Nov. 9, citing the "fast-spreading delta variant" of coronavirus as the reasoning behind the decision to allow video and audio.
Earl Gray, Potter defense attorney
Earl Gray is one of the defense attorneys representing Kim Potter. He has worked as a criminal defender in the Twin Cities for over 40 years.
Through the years Gray has made a name for himself representing police officers in high-profile criminal cases. In addition to representing Potter he currently represents Thomas Lane, one of the former Minneapolis police officers charged in the 2020 death of George Floyd. Gray also earned an acquittal for Jeronimo Yanez, the former St. Anthony police officer who was charged in the 2016 shooting death of Philando Castile.
Paul Engh, Potter defense attorney
Along with Gray, Paul Engh is representing Kim Potter in her criminal trial. He has been practicing law in the Twin Cities for over 40 years.
Engh delivered opening statements in the criminal trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the former St. Anthony police officer who was acquitted in the 2016 shooting death of Philando Castile.
Matthew Frank, prosecutor
Matthew Frank has been manager of the Criminal Division of the Minnesota Attorney General's Office for the last 14 years. He has worked in the AG's office for a total of 21 years.
Frank was among those who took part in the criminal trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted in the 2020 murder of George Floyd. He has also worked on several other high-profile cases for the state, including that of "Killer Grandma" Lois Riess, the Blooming Prairie woman convicted of murdering her husband in Minnesota, before killing a stranger in Florida.
Erin Eldridge, prosecutor
Erin Eldridge has been an assistant attorney general with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office since 2018.
She worked as a presenting attorney in the murder trial of former MPD officer Derek Chauvin, who was ultimately convicted in the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
Before joining the AG's office, Eldridge served as Special Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Nebraska and the Northern District of Iowa.
Joshua Larson, prosecutor
Joshua Larson is an assistant Hennepin County attorney, and has been with the office since 2009.
Larson also worked with Ellison's state prosecution team in the trial of former MPD officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder in the 2020 death of George Floyd.
Attorney General Keith Ellison
Keith Ellison is the 30th attorney general to serve the state of Minnesota. His office is leading the prosecution in the manslaughter trial of Kim Potter.
Ellison was first elected as the state's top prosecutor in 2018, and before that, served Minnesota's 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the weeks following Wright's death, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman first referred the case to the Washington County Attorney Pete Orput's Office. Orput made the original charging decision against Potter, but then sent the case back to Hennepin County.
It was then that Freeman asked Ellison's office to step in.
Ellison's office also led the prosecution against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, convicted of murder in the 2020 death of George Floyd.
Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by Kim Potter on April 11, 2021 during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center.
Police were attempting to take Wright into custody after pulling him over for expired tabs when they learned there was a warrant out for his arrest. Potter, who is white, drew her gun and fatally shot him in the chest as Wright jumped back in his vehicle. Wright's girlfriend was also in his vehicle at the time of the shooting, which took place during the high-profile, public-facing criminal trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin was later convicted of the 2020 murder of George Floyd.
Wright attended high school at Minneapolis Edison, where George Floyd's girlfriend Courtney Ross was one of his teachers. At the time of his death Ross said Wright was well-known in the community. His fatal shooting sparked several days of protests calling for police accountability.
In the months following Wright's death several pieces of legislation regarding police reform and public safety were conceived, including the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution, which establishes a "cite and release" policy for misdemeanors and low level traffic violations like broken tail lights or expired tabs. Both Wright and Dimock-Heisler were killed by Brooklyn Center police.
Wright's funeral was held April 22 at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis, where Rev. Al Sharpton delivered his eulogy. Several local and national leaders also attended the funeral including Gov. Tim Walz, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Tina Smith and Rep. Ilhan Omar. Families and loved ones of Emmett Till, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark and Breonna Taylor were also present.
Wright was also the father of a young son.
Court records show Wright was being sought after failing to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.
In a separate case, Wright was charged with aggravated robbery after police in nearby Osseo arrested him in December 2019. A criminal complaint said Wright and another man had joined a woman and her roommate to party, and the roommate left at one point to get $820 in cash to pay rent to the woman. Wright later demanded at gunpoint that the woman give him the money, choked her and tried to pull the money from under her bra, according to the complaint.
The matter was pending at the time of Wright’s death.