- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Opening statements in the trial of a man accused of killing a Mendota Heights police officer have been delayed until Thursday, after prosecutors said they have new evidence that Brian Fitch Sr. admitted to the shooting.

Fitch’s trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday morning in Stearns County. Opening statements were initially delayed by a few hours when a female juror was released after expressing safety concerns.

But the Star Tribune reported (https://strib.mn/1zuJQT9 ) that the trial was ultimately pushed to Thursday after prosecutors said they had new evidence that Fitch told another inmate he killed Officer Scott Patrick during a July traffic stop in West St. Paul.

Prosecutor Phillip Prokopowicz said Fitch admitted to the inmate that he had drugs in his car and “had no choice” but to shoot Patrick. Defense attorney Lauri Traub says she learned of the new evidence Monday and needs time to interview the inmate who allegedly heard the confession.

Dakota County District Court Judge Mary Theisen said she won’t exclude the alleged confession, and she gave both sides more time to investigate it.

Prosecutors also plan to introduce evidence that while Fitch was in the Oak Park Heights maximum security prison, he allegedly tried to have two witnesses killed.

Earlier Tuesday, a female juror asked to be excused from the trial, fearing that media reports that listed her job had publicly identified her. Last week, another juror also asked to be excused, fearing for her safety. Additional jurors were picked Tuesday.

The trial was moved to Stearns County after concerns that publicity surrounding the case would make it difficult to seat an impartial jury in Dakota County.

Fitch is also accused of engaging in a shootout with three St. Paul police officers several hours after Patrick was killed.

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Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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