ST. CLOUD – Moments after proceedings got underway in the Brian G. Fitch Sr. trial Monday morning, defense attorney Lauri Traub said she was “putting everyone on notice” that she plans to ask that some of the state’s evidence be excluded from the trial due to what she characterized as unacceptably late filings.
Some of the state’s evidence, she complained to Dakota County District Court Judge Mary J. Theisen, was given to her just last Friday, too late for her office to review it properly before jury selection kicked off Monday. “We’re going to ask that certain things not be allowed in,” she said.
It was the first salvo, in what promises to be a contentious few weeks at the Stearns County Courthouse. Fitch, 40, is charged with first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder in the July 30 death of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick.
Monday’s session was brief, with 93 potential jurors given questionnaires to take home and complete. The trial was moved to Stearns County because of publicity about the case in Dakota County.
Fitch is accused of killing Patrick, 47, during a routine traffic stop. He was cornered by police hours later in a shootout.
Patrick was married and a father of two. He was the longest serving member of the Mendota Heights force and its only officer ever to be killed in the line of duty. Thousands of people, including 4,000 members of law enforcement, attended his funeral in August.
In court Monday, Fitch sat between Traub and his other defense attorney, Gordon Cohoes, for most of the proceedings. His head shaved and wearing a blue button-down shirt, Fitch stood briefly when asked by the judge to identify himself to the prospective jurors standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the crowded courtroom. “Good morning,” was all he said.
Traub said the state gave her 11 discs of discovery material last Wednesday and Thursday. An analysis of cellphones that were seized in July was provided to her office Friday, she added. Traub also said she doesn’t have any credentials to show that a police officer the state wants to call as a cellphone tower expert has that kind of expertise.
There was no discussion on these points Monday morning. Theisen said she wants to select a jury first. Traub said she plans to seek the exclusions after the jury is selected, perhaps as early as Thursday.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin Jan. 20, assuming a jury is seated by then. Prosecutors have a potential witness list of about 70 people. The defense plans to call at least four witnesses.
Theisen said Monday she expects the trial to last two to two-and-a-half weeks.