Monday marks the start of the trial for Brian Fitch Sr., the man accused of killing Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick.
Fitch, 39, is charged with first-degree murder in the July 30, 2014 shooting death of Officer Patrick during a routine traffic stop, and he's facing other charges in a shootout with police in St. Paul following an all-day manhunt. Fitch has pleaded not guilty, with jury selection scheduled to begin Jan. 12 in Stearns County. A district court judge granted a request to have the murder trial moved from Dakota County.
Criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino is not part of this trial, but told Fox 9 News Fitch's mental stability hasn't been brought up in any documentation yet, and he believes the defense's best strategy would be a conviction of a lesser charge than first-degree murder.
"That would really be the only defense you could have, meaning that, ‘I didn't pre-meditatively do this, I didn't have the intent to do this but this is such a difficult case for the defense.' I mean, I feel pretty bad for the public defenders because they have such a mountain to climb in this case," he said.
Jury selection to whittle 75 potentials to a dozen is expected to last at least a week, with opening arguments slated to begin Jan. 20.
"You're going to get jurors who read about this case or saw it on TV, so you're just looking for jurors for an open mind so to just consider the evidence it may not be first-degree murder, it may be less," Tamburino said.
If convicted, Fitch will be sentenced to life in prison.
A two-page filing submitted by Dakota County prosecutor Phil Prokopowicz claims there's evidence Fitch conspired to commit new crimes while in prison. The accusations include:
- Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder
- Attempted first-degree murder
- Attempted aggravated first-degree witness tampering
The filing seeks legal permission to introduce evidence of these alleged offenses during Fitch's murder trial.
Follow Fox 9's coverage of the Brian Fitch trial on Twitter - #FitchTrial