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Kim Potter trial: Potter guilty of manslaughter

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Kim Potter trial: Potter guilty of manslaughter

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MINNEAPOLIS – A suburban Minneapolis police officer who said he mistook his handgun for his Taser was convicted of manslaughter on Thursday in the death of Daunte Wright, causing the young black man’s parents to cry. jubilant celebration by supporters outside the courthouse who chanted “Guilty, guilty, guilty!”

The predominantly white jury deliberated for about 27 hours over four days before finding former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter guilty of first and second degree manslaughter. Potter, 49, faces around seven years in prison under state sentencing guidelines, but prosecutors said they would seek a longer sentence.

Judge Regina Chu ordered Potter to be taken into police custody and held without bail pending sentencing on February 18. Potter had been released on a $ 100,000 bond posted the day she was charged last April, three days after killing Wright and one day after resigning. the police force.

As she was taken away in handcuffs, a member of the Potter family in the courtroom shouted “I love you, Kim!” Potter’s attorneys left the courthouse without comment and did not immediately respond to phone messages or emails.

It was the second high-profile police conviction won this year by a team led by Attorney General Keith Ellison, including some of the same lawyers who helped convict Derek Chauvin of George Floyd’s death in the same room. hearing eight months earlier.

Wright was killed while this trial was unfolding nearby, and it sparked a wave of angry protests outside the Brooklyn Center police station, where protesters demanding “Justice for Daunte” clashed with officers in riot gear for several nights.

Outside the courthouse on Thursday, dozens of people who had gathered erupted in cheers, hugs and tears of joy as the verdicts were read. A New Orleans style jazz band performed “When the Saints Go Marching In”. Two men jumped up and down holding each other’s shoulders, then others started to jump up and down and chanted “Guilty, guilty, guilty!”

They chanted “Say her name! Daunte Wright!” Some were holding yellow signs stating “guilty” in big capital letters.

Potter, who testified that she “didn’t want to hurt anyone,” looked down with no visible reaction when the verdicts were read. As Chu thanked the jury, Potter made the sign of the cross.

Potter’s lawyers argued that she should be allowed to remain free until sentenced, saying she was not going to commit another crime or go anywhere.

“It’s the Christmas holiday season,” said Potter’s attorney, Paul Engh. “She’s a staunch Catholic, nothing less, and there’s no point in jailing her at this point.”

Chu rejected their arguments, however, saying that she “cannot treat this case any differently from any other.”

Although Potter showed no visible emotion in court as the verdicts were read, she was pictured smiling in a passport photo taken later while being treated at a women’s prison near Minneapolis.

After Potter was led out of the courtroom, prosecutor Erin Eldridge exchanged a long hug with a tearful Katie Bryant, Wright’s mother and frequent presence at the trial, and with Wright’s father. Ellison also exchanged hugs with the parents.

Outside the courthouse afterward, Ellison said the verdict placed some responsibility on Potter, but failed to deliver justice.

“Justice would bring Daunte back to life and bring the Wright family back to life,” Ellison said. “Justice is beyond the scope that we have in this life for Daunte. But accountability is an important, critical and necessary step on the path to justice for all of us.”

Ellison said he sympathized with Potter, who went from being a “valued member of the community” to being convicted of a serious crime.

Wright’s mother gave Ellison a hug and said the verdicts triggered “every emotion you can imagine.”

“Today we got accounts and that’s what we’ve been asking for from the start,” said Katie Bryant, grateful to fans for keeping the pressure on.

“We love you, we appreciate you, and honestly we couldn’t have done it without you,” she said.

Timestamps of the verdicts showed jurors were in agreement on the second count on Tuesday, before asking the judge that afternoon what to do if they had difficulty getting down to it. OK. The guilty verdict on the most serious first-degree count was returned at 11:40 a.m. on Thursday.

Potter, who is white, gunned down Wright, 20, during an April 11 traffic stop in central Brooklyn as she and other police attempted to arrest him under a pending warrant for a charge of possession of weapons. The shooting came at a time of high tension in the area, as Chauvin was on trial in nearby Minneapolis for Floyd’s death.

Jurors saw video of the shooting from police corps cameras and dashcams. As Wright walked away as another officer attempted to handcuff him, Potter repeatedly said she would crush him, but instead shot him once in the chest with his gun, which was in her hand.

“(Expletive)! I just shot him.… I grabbed the wrong (expletive) gun,” Potter said on the video presented to the jury. Moments later, she said, “I’m going to go to jail.”

During her sometimes tearful testimony, Potter told jurors that she was “sorry that this happened.” She said that the traffic stop “has become chaotic”.

The maximum prison sentence for first degree manslaughter is 15 years. Minnesota law sentences defendants only on their most serious conviction when multiple charges involve the same act and the same victim, and state guidelines allow approximately seven years for that charge.

Prosecutors said they would seek to prove the aggravating factors that justify what is called an upward deviation from sentencing guidelines. In Potter’s case, they alleged that his actions posed a danger to others, including his fellow officers, Wright’s passenger, and the couple whose car was hit by Wright after the shooting. They also alleged that she abused her authority as a police officer.

Potter’s attorneys argued that she had made a tragic mistake, but would also have been justified in using deadly force due to the possibility that Potter’s colleague, then the Staff Sgt. Mychal Johnson was in danger of being dragged if Wright strayed from the traffic control.

Potter testified that she decided to act after seeing a look of fear on Johnson’s face. But Eldridge pointed out to jurors that for much of the interaction, Potter was behind a third officer she was training and that Johnson was out of line of sight of his camera before the shot – then he showed the top of his head as he stepped back.

“Sergeant Johnson clearly wasn’t afraid of being dragged,” Eldridge said. “He never said he was scared. He didn’t say it at the time, and he didn’t testify in court.”

Eldridge also noted an inconsistency in Potter’s testimony, claiming that when she gave an interview to a psychologist working for the defense team, she told him that she was unsure why she had used her Taser. Potter told the jury that she didn’t remember saying that.

For first-degree manslaughter, prosecutors had to prove that Potter caused Wright’s death by committing a misdemeanor – in his case, reckless handling of a firearm. The second degree charge required them to prove that she had caused Wright’s death by “culpable negligence.”


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