Judge Regina M. Chu is the judge presiding over the trial of Kim Potter, a former Brooklyn Center police officer facing manslaughter charges in the shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright April 11, 2021.
Potter was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter charges Thursday, December 23, 2021. The maximum sentence for first-degree manslaughter in Minnesota is 15 years, according to KCRA. The state rested its case Thursday morning, December 16, after Potter’s trial began Wednesday, December 8. Potter has said she drew her handgun accidentally when she shot Wright, a driver, during a vehicle stop, according to KARE 11. Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter. Chu met with attorneys Monday, December 6, 2021, to discuss jury instructions and pre-trial motions.
“Potter’s defense team wants Judge Chu to issue a jury instruction at the end of case stating that if the former officer truly believed she was deploying her Taser instead of shooting her firearm, the jury should rule that she is not guilty. The prosecution is requesting limits be placed on the defense using character evidence for Potter,” KARE 11 reported.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Chu Was Appointed By Governor Jesse Ventura & Elected Three Times
Chu was appointed to her position in 2002 by then-Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, according to her Minnesota Courts bio. She was then elected to serve in her position in 2004, 2010 and 2016, the bio says.
Ballotpedia reported Minnesota District Courts judges are elected in non-partisan elections to serve six-year terms. A peer vote selects each chief district court judge for a two-year term. Chu’s re-election was unopposed in 2010, the publication says. Judges are required to be “learned in the law” and under age 70, Ballotpedia says.
“Candidates compete in primaries, from which the top two contestants advance to the general election,” Ballotpedia writes. “Sitting judges must run for re-election if they wish to serve additional terms. While party affiliation is not designated on the ballot, incumbency is. Sitting judges who reach the age of 70 while in office are allowed to serve until the last day of their birthday month.”
2. Cortez Rice, a Friend of the Wright Family, Was Charged With Allegedly Harassing Chu in a Protest
Cortez Aaron Rice, 32, is facing a felony harassment charge, accused of entering an apartment building and the floor where he believed Chu may live November 6, 2021, according to MPR News. Protesters were calling for transparency in the protest, CBS Local reported. The news outlet reported that Rice streamed himself on Facebook Live when he approached a door.
“I don’t know if this is her crib,” he said on the video, which has now been deleted. “I think this is her crib right here. We got confirmation that this is her house right here. Waiting for the gang to get up here.”
The news outlet reported he opened a window in a hallway and shouted down to protesters.
“If people stand down there, she’ll definitely hear us,” he said on the video, according to CBS Local. Rice is a friend of the Wright family, the news outlet reported.
Rice was before Chu in October 2021, MPR News reported, when he was found guilty of a probation violation following a 2017 firearms conviction.
3. Chu Graduated From the University of Minnesota & Earned Her Law Degree at William Mitchell College of Law
Chu attended the University of Minnesota, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree, according to her Minnesota Courts bio. She then went on to attend William Mitchell College of Law, where she earned her juris doctor degree, the bio says. Chu graduated cum laude from both schools, according to the bio. She completed her undergrad in 1975 and graduated from law school in 1980, according to Ballotpedia.
The law college, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, has now merged with Hamline Law, becoming the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, according to the Minnesota Post. Hamline University reported the merger occurred in the fall of 2015.
“Mitchell Hamline School of Law is ranked No. 147-193 in Best Law Schools and No. 35 (tie) in Part-time Law. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence,” U.S. News & World Report writes.
4. Chu Said She Would Allow Video in the Courtroom, But That Her Decision Was Not Related to the Protests
Chu announced she would allow video recording during the Potter trial, but said her decision was not related to protests over transparency in November, according to MPR News. She said her decision was based on rising numbers of coronavirus cases, her order said.
“The recent protest at the presiding judge’s home needs to be addressed,” Chu wrote in her order, according to MPR News. “The unfortunate timing suggests the protest had an impact on the court’s decision to allow A/V coverage. The honest answer is the protest did not have any impact on the court’s decision, nor should it.”
Chu made additional decisions in advance of the trial, KARE 11 reported, including that there will be no livestream coverage of Wright’s autopsy photos out of respect for the deceased and his family.
5. Chu Began Her Career as a Law Clerk & Is a Member of Several Organizations
Chu’s first job was as a law clerk in Hennepin County, according to Ballotpedia. She then took a new position as a law clerk for the Minnesota Supreme Court, before becoming a special assistant to the attorney general in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, the publication says.
“Chu began her legal career in 1977 as a law clerk to Judge Barbeau of the Hennepin County District Court,” Ballotpedia writes. “In 1980, she became a law clerk on the Minnesota Supreme Court, assisting Justice Amdahl. The following year, she became a special assistant attorney general. She worked in this position in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office through 1984. She then worked as an attorney and, later, a partner of the firm of Bassford, Lockhart, Truesdell & Briggs from 1985 to 1993. She was an attorney and partner of Wilson & Chu from 1993 to 1996 and then a solo attorney under the title Regina M. Chu, P.A. from 1997 until her judicial appointment in 2002.”
Chu is also the member of several organizations, according to her Minnesota Courts bio. She is a board member for Asian Women United of Minnesota and a member of the Hennepin County Pro Bono Project Committee, the Civil Litigation Section Council and the Minnesota District Judges Civil Jury Instruction Guides Committee, her bio says.