ST. CLOUD – A jury has been selected in the trial of Brian G. Fitch, the man accused of gunning down Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick and shooting at three St. Paul police officers.
Final jury selection came after a dramatic day in Stearns County District Court on Friday.
A juror said she feared for her life after a description of her was broadcast in the media, potentially identifying her, the court said Friday.
The woman’s work history had been included in a description of the jurors chosen so far, and friends and family recognized the woman by the jobs listed, she told the court. The woman was chosen for jury duty Thursday, one of 11 chosen after four days of juror interviews.
“She is very scared for her life and hasn’t slept,” Dakota County District Court Judge Mary Theisen said.
The woman reappeared in Stearns County District Court on Friday, tearfully taking the witness stand to tell Theisen that her family, work colleagues and community recognized her as a juror based on what they saw in the media.
“I would like to be excused,” she said, crying. Theisen apologized and excused her from jury duty.
The jurors are identified by a number, not by name, in court, but personal details come out during jury selection as the defense and prosecution interview them. Some 93 prospective jurors were summoned to appear at Stearns County District Court to potentially serve on the Fitch trial.
The evidence includes a squad car video that shows Patrick approaching Fitch’s car in the moments before the shooting. The gun used to kill Patrick was found in Fitch’s car hours later. Fitch himself allegedly tried to hide the car after the shooting, told friends that he needed to hide out for a while and even said while in the hospital that he had done it, according to evidence the state is likely to use.
Fitch allegedly hatched a plot after his capture to kill two key witnesses in his case. Investigators learned in late December that Fitch told another inmate that he wanted to target two witnesses, according to prosecutors.
After the final juror was chosen Friday afternoon, Theisen heard arguments on the defense motion asking for the name of a confidential informant who spoke to police shortly after officer Patrick was killed. The informant saw Fitch at 1:30 p.m. that day, and defense attorney Lauri Traub said some of that information could be beneficial to her client’s case.
Theisen said she doesn’t want to reveal the identity of the informant but thinks there may be a way to get the evidence into the trial without naming the person. She told prosecutor Richard Dusterhoft to consider coming up with a workable alternative over the weekend.
The trial is set to get underway Tuesday.