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Evidence that Fitch tried to have witnesses killed allowed into trial; jury nearly seated

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Evidence that Brian Fitch plotted the assassinations of two people set to testify against him will be allowed at his murder trial.

Dakota County District Court Judge Mary Theisen ruled Thursday the evidence will be admitted, rejecting defense arguments that jurors would then be terrified of Fitch, the Star Tribune reports.

Fitch is charged with first-degree murder in the July 30 shooting of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick. He's also accused of attempted murder in connection with the shootout with St. Paul police that led to his arrest the same day.

Injured in the shootout, Fitch was in the medical facility at the prison in Oak Park Heights when prosecutors say he sought a fellow inmate's help in having two people killed before they could testify. Fitch allegedly slipped a map showing the location of a witness' home to the other inmate.

The Pioneer Press reports both of the witnesses Fitch allegedly wanted killed had identified him as the driver of the green Pontiac Grand Am Patrick had pulled over when he was shot.

The newspaper says one of them is a woman who told police that on the day before Patrick was killed, Fitch said he would shoot any cop who pulled him over. Fitch was wanted for violating his probation on a burglary conviction.

Jury selection in Fitch's trial is on track to wrap up Friday. 14 jurors are needed for the panel, with two being alternates.

As WCCO reports, attorneys have seated 11. FOX 9 says one of them is a medical assistant whose company does contract work with the Stearns County jail. The woman gave medication to Fitch earlier this week, FOX says.

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Fitch's trial was moved to the Stearns County courthouse in St. Cloud because of Judge Theisen's doubts about whether an impartial jury could be found in Dakota County.

Opening arguments in the trial are expected on Monday.

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