It was a rollercoaster ride for what should have been the first day of opening statements and witness testimony in the first-degree murder trial of accused cop killer Brian Fitch. Fitch is facing charges of first-degree murder in last July's shooting death of Mendota Heights Police Officer Scott Patrick.
Juror drops out, fearing for safety
Opening statements were set for 9 a.m., but before proceedings began, one of the jurors came forward to report that she now feared for her safety. Her job as a certified medical assistant, delivering medicines to the inmates at the Stearns County jail, was reported on by several major media outlets, including Fox 9. She told the judge that over the weekend her daughter had called, saying the media had singled her out.
Identified as Juror No. 44, she told Judge Mary Theisen that she could never return to her job in the jail, regardless of the verdict, because it would likely upset someone.
"It scares me," she said.
New witness to alleged confession
After several hours to find a jury replacement, the trial was delayed once again. This time the defense was demanding more time to review evidence and new allegations that Fitch confessed to the cold-blooded shooting on July 30.
Supposedly, a Fitch girlfriend recently told investigators that an acquaintance of theirs said he spoke to Fitch after the deadly West St. Paul encounter. Fitch reportedly told him he had to shoot the cop because he had drugs in his car. That acquaintance is now in the Sherburne County jail on an unrelated charge.
The defense gets until Thursday morning to dig into these latest allegations.
Family in court
Officer Patrick's family, including his brother, his widow and one of his teen daughters prepared themselves in court for the rocky and emotional road ahead.
"This is obviously an important few weeks for my family," said Mike Brue, Officer Patrick's brother. "We're a strong bunch. This is still going to be a difficult time."