MINNEAPOLIS -- The former Minnesota police officer charged in the April shooting of Daunte Wright, a Black man whose killing prompted fresh protests against police brutality, will testify in her own defense during her manslaughter trial, her attorney said on Tuesday, Nov. 30, as jury selection began.

Kimberly Potter, a white former 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 discharged her handgun instead of her stun gun at Wright, 20, 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.

While questioning a prospective juror, defense attorney Paul Engh said Potter will take the witness stand, a move that lets her tell jurors her side of the story but could prove risky by exposing her to prosecution cross-examination.

By day's end, four jurors had been selected for the 12-member panel. Hennepin County District Court Judge Regina Chu has said jury selection could take about a week.

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Kimberly Potter booking photo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
Kimberly Potter booking photo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

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 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.

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 misdemeanor weapons violation.

Daunte Wright, 20, was shot by a white officer during a traffic stop April 11 in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. (Photo provided by family / Star Tribune / TNS)
Daunte Wright, 20, was shot by a white officer during a traffic stop April 11 in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. (Photo provided by family / Star Tribune / TNS)

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 Dec. 8. Chu, who has ordered the jury fully sequestered once deliberations begin, said she expects the trial to be finished before Dec. 24.

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