In opening statements defense for veteran white cop insist she ‘accidentally’ shot Daunte Wright during botched traffic stop
Former police officer Kim Potter, 49, is on trial for fatally shooting Daunte Wright, 19, after she pulled him over for having expired license plates
She’s been charged on two counts; first-degree manslaughter predicated on reckless use/handling of a firearm and second-degree manslaughter
Prosecutors say Potter’s actions endangered the safety of others as she fired into a car in which there was a passenger present, near two other officers and while the car had its motor running on a busy street
Opening statements began Wednesday in Minneapolis with both sides presenting starkly different views of the Brooklyn Center police shooting
Potter, a police officer for 26 years before her resignation, has been charged on two counts; first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter
A jury of 14 people – including two alternates – was selected to hear the case
Nine of the 12 jurors likely to deliberate are white, one is Black and two are Asian – The two alternate jurors are white
Legal experts have said juries that are diverse by race, gender and economic background are necessary to minimize bias in the legal system
The trial of the ex-cop who shot Daunte Wright began Wednesday as opening statements began Wednesday at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis.
In opening statements, the prosecution showed video of Kimberly Potter, a former police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, shooting a motorist. The defense described it as a tragic accident.
A lawyer for Kimberly Potter, 49, the former police officer on trial for manslaughter for fatally shooting Daunte Wright at a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb, said she mistook her gun for her Taser.
Kim Potter claims she shot Wright ‘by accident’ when she reached for her gun instead of her taser during a botched traffic stop and her defense in the high-profile trial is expected to lean heavily on the fact that Wright was attempting to flee when she did so.
Potter, a police officer for 26 years before her resignation five days after the shooting, has been charged on two counts; first-degree manslaughter predicated on reckless use/handling of a firearm and second-degree manslaughter.
The 49-year-old ex-cop shot Wright dead on April 11, 2021, when a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center veered into a tragic conclusion.
Field training officer Kim Porter and the rookie she was training, officer Anthony Luckey, pulled Wright over for having an air-freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota, and expired plates on his Buick.
A records check showed the 20-year-old had an outstanding warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons violation and the stop swiftly turned into an arrest.
Wright resisted, getting back into the car out of which he had been asked to step as officers tried to cuff him.
In the confusion that followed, Potter drew her gun and threatened to tase Wright twice.
in the bodycam footage she is heard shouting, ‘Taser! Taser! Taser!’ and shot him in the chest. She maintains she grabbed her gun in error.
With no criminal history, Potter is unlikely to receive the maximum sentence on either count should she be convicted. The maximum penalty for first degree manslaughter in Minnesota is 15 years but sentencing guidelines of 7-10 years mean she could be looking at less than half of that time behind bars.
But the prosecution has made it known that they intend to press for an upward departure from these sentencing guidelines and more prison time.
In his opening statement on Wednesday defense attorney Potter’s lawyer, Paul Engh, said.
A lawyer for Kimberly Potter, the former police officer on trial for manslaughter in the killing of Daunte Wright, told jurors on Wednesday that Potter had “made a mistake” in fatally shooting Duane Wright when she had meant to stun him with her Taser.
In his opening statement to jurors, Potter’s lawyer, Paul Engh, noted that Potter had clearly warned Wright that she was about to use her Taser on him during a traffic stop last April.
“All he had to do was surrender,” Engh said of Wright, 20, who had been trying to flee from officers as they attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant. “But that wasn’t his plan. He continued on with his struggle.”
Officer Kim Potter fatally shot Wright after allegedly, mistakenly draw her handgun instead of her Taser.
She resigned from the police department in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb, days later.
Prosecutors have not asserted that the shooting was intentional, but have said that Potter was reckless, charging her with first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter.
A conviction on either count would likely bring years in prison.
Engh’s comments followed the opening statement of a prosecutor, who argued that Ms. Potter had violated her oath to protect the public. On Wednesday, Potter sat between her lawyers in the courtroom, wearing a beige sweater and a face mask. Her husband, brother and sister-in-law also sat in the courtroom.
Her attorney told jurors that they would remember Potter’s voice, repeatedly shouting “Taser” before she fired her gun, “for the rest of your life.”
In video of the shooting, a distraught Potter swears after the shooting and tells her fellow officers that she grabbed the wrong weapon.
“She realizes what has happened, much to her everlasting and unending regret,” Mr. Engh said. “She made a mistake. This was an accident. She’s a human being.”
He also disagreed with a suggestion by prosecutors that Potter had not been justified in trying to use her Taser — even if she had been using the correct weapon. Engh argued that she had been trying to stun Wright because she feared that he was going to drive away as another officer, Sgt. Mychal Johnson, was leaning into the passenger-side window of Wright’s car. If Potter had done nothing, Engh asserted, Sergeant Johnson could have died.
Engh concluded his opening statement by saying that Potter’s “good name has been besmirched” by the manslaughter charges and by biased media coverage.
“And we seek to reclaim it, and reclaim it we will,” Engh told the jurors.
“And our request for you to find her not guilty will be well-deserved.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has given two grounds for this request.
According to the AG, Potter’s actions endangered the safety of others as she fired into a car in which there was a passenger present, near two other officers and while the car had its motor running on a busy street.
Wright drove off after he had been shot and hit another car before he came to a stop.
Ellison has also stated that she abused her position of authority as a licensed police officer.
The defense has already had a series of disappointments ahead of Wednesday’s openings during pre-trial motions Monday.
Judge Regina Chu denied the defense request to introduce a photo of Wright holding a handgun in front of a mirror to push back at spark of life testimony expected to come from his mother and father.
She also denied a defense bid to include in her jury instructions comments about Wright’s decision to flee, the fact that an officer does not need a warrant to make an arrest or any suggestion that the jury can consider Wright’s own actions as having contributed to his death.
Judge Chu did however allow limited testimony on Potter’s character about her reputation for being peaceful and law-abiding.
Wright’s shooting took place just ten miles from the Hennepin County District Courthouse in which Potter’s trial will be heard.
It happened while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was standing trial there for the murder of George Floyd and ignited days and nights of unrest as protesters clashed with law enforcement.
Now, with the start of the trial, the specter of violence and disorder has risen once more in Minneapolis.
The trial will be live-streamed with rigid restrictions placed on the cameras in the room. Witnesses under 18 will not be filmed nor will any members of Potter or Wright’s families. **None of the jurors are to be filmed and their identities will be closely guarded and only released after the trial on order of the court.
Eleven of the 14 jurors seated – including two alternates – are white, with one black juror and two Asian.
The ethnic mix, or lack thereof, has drawn comment but is representative of Hennepin County’s demographics which put it at 74 per cent white, though the jury that sealed Chauvin’s fate in March was notably more diverse.
The state had requested full sequestration of jurors during the trial. Instead Judge Chu has ordered that they be partially sequestered each day meaning they will remain in the court building once they have arrived in the morning and their lunch will be brought to them.
They will be fully sequestered once deliberations start but allowed electronic devices to communicate with family on the condition that they do not discuss the case.
They will be guarded by members of Hennepin County Sheriff Office throughout.
A man was arrested and charged with trying to intimidate presiding Judge Chu just last week.
Cortez Rice, 32, – an activist and friend of Floyd who was vocal during Chauvin’s trial – live-streamed himself apparently approaching the front door of the judge’s condo apartment having followed residents into the building on November 6.
He has been charged with tampering with a judicial officer – a felony offense. At the time of Rice’s alleged intrusion Judge Chu had ruled that cameras would not be permitted in court.
Rice filmed himself at her door saying ‘We on her heels. What she think? We want cameras. The people deserve to know.’
Standing outside an apartment door he admitted, ‘I don’t know if this is her crib. I think this is her crib right here. We got confirmation that this is her house right here.
‘Waiting for the gang to get up here.’
He yelled her name, demanded ‘transparency’ and said, ‘We’d hate to get you kicked out of your apartment.’ Rice has denied trying to intimidate the judge.
When Judge Chu subsequently reversed her order and allowed cameras access, she was quick to point out that her change of heart was, ‘most emphatically not a reflexive response to recent protests at the presiding judge’s home.’ Instead, she said that the resurgence of Covid 19 and health concerns at the prospect of crowds gathering at the courthouse was the primary driver for the revised order she passed on November 9.
She went on to acknowledge that Potter had objected to the televising of the trial but concluded that doing so would not violate her right to a fair trial.