The jury will be presented with radically different views on Minnesota the police officer who killed the black driver Daunte Wright in opening statements at her manslaughter trial Wednesday, with the defense alleging that Kim Potter made the innocent mistake of pulling out her pistol instead of hers electric gun and prosecutors describing her as a veteran cop with extensive training warned of such a mix.
Potter, 49, was charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in Wright’s April 11 death at Brooklyn Center. The former white officer – she resigned two days after the shooting – has said she intended to use her Taser on 20-year-old Wright after he attempted to drive away from a traffic stop when the officers tried to arrest him, but she grabbed her shotgun instead.
Her body camera captured the footage.
A predominantly white jury sat down last week, setting the stage for testimony to begin in a case that sparked angry protests outside the Central Brooklyn police station last spring. Those protests, with protesters regularly clashing with police in riot gear, happened as before. Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was tried just 10 miles (16 km) away for the murder of George Floyd.
Potter was training a new officer when they pulled Wright in because of an expired license plate tag and an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, according to the criminal complaint.
When they found out that Wright had an outstanding arrest warrant, they tried to arrest him, but he got into his car instead of cooperating. Potter’s body camera video captures her shouting “Taser, Taser, Taser” and “I’ll tease” before she fires a shot with her pistol. She was then heard saying, “I took the wrong gun (at best).”
To back up their claim that it was an accident, defense attorneys emphasized Potter’s immediate reaction and subsequent on-camera footage, which the public could not see, in which Potter is believed to be expressed regret many times. But they also asserted that Potter had the right to use deadly force if she consciously chose to do so because Wright’s actions endangered other officers at the scene.
“She believes it is appropriate to use the Taser given Mr. Wright’s denial of lawful arrest in connection with his attempted flight,” defense attorney Paul Engh wrote in a pre-trial filing. trial to dismiss one of the charges. “She could have shot him.”
Prosecutors countered that Potter had received Taser training several times during her 26 years as a police officer, including twice in the six months before the shooting. In one of their pre-trial filings, they cited a training program that explicitly warned officers about confusing firearms with Taser guns and instructed them to “learn the difference between their pistols and firearms to avoid such confusion.”
Potter, they argued in their filing, “acted consciously and intentionally when choosing to use force against Daunte Wright and to approach, draw, point, and operate a weapon.”
A jury of 14, including two white substitutes, will hear the case. Nine out of 12 juries are likely to be white, one black, and two Asian.
The racial makeup of the jury roughly matched the demographics of Hennepin County, which is about 74% white. But it’s worth noting that the jury is less diverse than who convicted Chauvin in Floyd’s murder.
Potter had told the court she would testify.
The most serious charge against Potter requires prosecutors to prove recklessness, while the lesser charge requires them to prove reprehensible negligence. Minnesota sentencing guidelines call for prison sentences of just over seven years for first-degree manslaughter and four years for second-degree charges. Prosecutors said they would seek a longer sentence.
Find the full AP report on the Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/daunte-wright-kim-potter-taser-minneapolis-minnesota-b1971782.html With the jury set up, the Potter trial moved on to the opening statement