Closing arguments are set for Monday in the manslaughter trial of the former Minnesota police officer who said she intended to use her Taser instead of her gun when she killed Daunte Wright as he tried to pull away from a traffic stop.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Closing arguments are set for Monday in the manslaughter trial of the former Minnesota police officer who said she intended to use her Taser instead of her gun when she shot dead Daunte Wright as he tried to get away from a traffic stop.
Kim Potter’s case will go to a predominantly white jury after Judge Regina Chu gives them final instructions. The judge has previously told jurors that she will not have them deliberate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. They will come back after the holidays if they haven’t delivered a verdict yet.
The defense rested on Friday after Potter told jurors she “didn’t want to hurt anyone,” claiming during her sometimes tearful testimony that she shouted a warning about using her Taser on Wright after seeing fear on the face of a fellow officer.
Potter, 49, said she was “sorry that this happened”. She said she didn’t remember what she said or everything that happened after the shooting, saying much of her memory of those moments was “missing”.
Potter is charged with first and second degree manslaughter in the April 11 death of Wright, a 20-year-old black motorist who was arrested in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center for expiring license tags and a air freshener hanging from its rearview mirror.
Potter, who was training another officer at the time, said she probably wouldn’t have stopped Wright’s car if she had been alone that day. After this first meeting, the traffic stop “became chaotic,” she said.
“I remember yelling ‘Taser, Taser, Taser’ and nothing happened, then he told me I shot him,” Potter, who is white, said through tears. His body camera recorded Wright saying, “Ah, he shot me,” after the shooting.
Potter’s attorneys argued that she had made a mistake, but that she would also have been justified in using deadly force if she had wanted to because Sgt. Mychal Johnson was in danger of being dragged by Wright’s car.
During cross-examination, prosecutor Erin Eldridge noted that Potter had told a defense expert that she did not know why she had fired her Taser. Quoting the expert’s report, Eldridge said Potter told him, “I don’t have an answer, my brain said grab the Taser.” Potter testified that she didn’t remember saying that.
Prosecutors argued that Potter had received extensive training in the use of tasers and lethal force, including warnings about the confusion between the two weapons. Eldridge got Potter to admit that his use of force training was a “key part” of being an officer. Potter testified that she was trained on when and how much to use force, and that there was departmental policy that dictated what officers could and could not do.
Wright’s death sparked protests of anger lasting several days in the Brooklyn Center. It happened as another white officer, Derek Chauvin, was on trial in neighboring Minneapolis for the murder of George Floyd.
Before Potter testified, a defense witness said police officers may mistakenly draw their guns instead of their Tasers in high stress situations because their ingrained training takes over.
Laurence Miller, a psychologist who teaches at Florida Atlantic University, said that the more a person repeats the same act, the less they have to think about it and there can be circumstances during a stressful situation in which someone’s normal reactions. one can be “hijacked”.
Some experts are skeptical of the theory. Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina who is not involved in Potter’s trial, said there was no science behind it.
State sentencing guidelines provide for just over seven years in prison for conviction for first degree manslaughter and four years for second degree manslaughter, although prosecutors have said that they were planning to require longer sentences.
Associated Press editors Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, and Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
Find the full PA coverage of the Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright