Kim Potter Manslaughter Trial Now in the Hands of Jury

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Kim Potter
Courtesy of Chad Davis (Flickr CC0)

The nation is impatiently awaiting the verdict for Kim Potter, a former Brooklyn Center police officer on trial for manslaughter. The jury began deliberation early Monday afternoon; her fate is now in their hands. Potter shot and killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop, on April 11, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Wright was pulled over for having an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror and expired tags. While conducting routine procedures, the officers noticed that he had outstanding warrants and tried to arrest him. As the officers attempted to put his hands behind his back, Wright tried to get back into the car and run. Potter pulled her firearm during the commotion and yelled “Taser, Taser, Taser,” followed by shooting her firearm into Wright’s chest, according to body camera footage. Wright died minutes later.

At this time, Potter faces charges for first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years and 10 years, respectively. In the state of Minnesota, one can be charged with first-degree manslaughter “if you accidentally killed someone while committing fifth-degree assault. Assault in the fifth degree is defined as committing an act with the intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death, or intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon another,” according to state laws.

Potter is heard on body camera footage telling Wright, “I’ll Tase ya,” according to MPR News, during the commotion where Wright attempted to flee from the police. Then, Potter began yelling “Taser, Taser, Taser” and then shot Wright in the chest.

In the case where the weapon of choice was, in actuality, a Taser, it is still an inappropriate method for resolving this issue. “The manual for the Brooklyn Center Police Department says that Tasers should be used to ‘control a violent or potentially violent individual,’ or someone who appears to present a threat to officers or others.” During her testimony, Potter admitted that Wright was not in possession of a firearm or any weapon, nor was he reacting violently toward police officers; therefore, he was not a threat.

Her statements to tase him were an act of intimidation to incite fear of bodily harm in Wright for attempting to flee from going to jail. The manual also states that “officers are supposed to avoid aiming at subjects’ head, neck or chest,” which was also a violation of appropriate weapon use since Potter aimed and shot Wright directly in his chest — piercing his heart.

In addition, Tasers should not be used when they can cause collateral damage, such as when the subject is operating a vehicle, as it is also written in the manual for the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Wright was clearly operating a vehicle — as that was his vessel for absconding from the police — which further highlights the recklessness displayed by the officers on the scene.

More importantly, Potter was on the police force for 26 years, trained several of her colleagues, and completed annual certifications for both Tasers and firearms. She is very well trained in how she should and should not use her weapons. Therefore, it is blatantly apparent that Potter knowingly committed fifth-degree assault and ignored legal protocols. Many feel her actions caused Wright’s death; consequently, she is absolutely guilty of first-degree manslaughter.

A lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter has also been added to the number of charges against Potter. Second-degree manslaughter occurs when a person “knowingly or consciously takes a risk that results in the death of a person,” according to Minnesota laws.

Shooting a person, either with a gun or a Taser, while they are operating a vehicle is a risk that can lead to a person’s death, accidental or otherwise. This must be the main reason why the Brooklyn Center Police Department’s manual restricts the use of these weapons in the cases where the subject is operating a vehicle. The gross negligence on the part of Potter could have also resulted in death or serious bodily injury of others, especially since after he was shot, Wright’s car crashed into a nearby vehicle.

Courtesy of Chad Davis (Flickr CC0)

The jury continues to deliberate on the manslaughter trial for Potter. It is in their hands to determine if she is guilty of these charges. Common sense says she is guilty of both first and second-degree manslaughter, but there is a possibility the jury will not agree.

History shows that police officers who use firearms when they intend to use Tasers are acquitted of these crimes more often than not. Furthermore, the defense attorney for this case is Attorney Earl Grey. He was responsible for the acquittal of St. Anthony Police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the killing of Philando Castile, another Black man killed during a traffic stop.

What must also be highlighted are the ridiculously overreaching attempts the defense attorneys have made to ensure a not-guilty verdict. Potter’s defense attorneys have argued that she was justified in using deadly force in this situation. They have insinuated that Wright is responsible for his death due to his own actions. Potter’s legal team also hired an expert witness for $30,000 to corroborate their accidental-death defense. A Florida-based psychologist named Lawrence Miller argued that what occurred was the result of a psychological phenomenon called “slips and capture,” according to MPR News.

“Slips and capture” are when a person “intends to do one thing and a more routine action unconsciously takes over.” His testimony was used to authenticate the idea that Potter used her gun when she intended to use her Taser.

“You’ve never heard of a doctor being charged with making a mistake and we know (that) common sense and history tell you they’ve made many and many have caused death. Many have caused serious injuries,” was a remark made by defense attorney Earl Gray during his closing statement. This is exceedingly inaccurate, as many doctors have faced lawsuits, criminal charges, and the loss of practitioners’ licenses due to their mistakes and mishaps; the public has been made aware of this many times.

In this trial against Potter for manslaughter, the jury is now responsible for delivering her into the hands of true justice. Hopefully, the information presented in this case was enough to determine that Potter’s actions deserve a guilty verdict. The good news is: the defense never stated that she did not commit the crime. They simply rendered it an accident. Potter’s own testimony of her admitting to accidentally shooting Wright with a gun she thought was a Taser is a complete admission to guilt, therefore rendering her undeniably guilty of both first and second-degree manslaughter. Let justice prevail.

Opinion News by Hyleia Kidd
Edited by Sheena Robertson


NBC News: Prosecutors say Kim Potter’s ‘colossal screw-up’ led to death of Daunte Wright, jury begins deliberating; by David K. Li
MPR News:: The killing of Daunte Wright and trial of Kimberly Potter; by Cathy Wurzer
MPR News:: Kimberly Potter trial: 8 key questions, answered; by Jon Collins
Insider:: Kim Potter’s defense tells jury the officer was justified in using deadly force against Daunte Wright, even if she didn’t mean to; by Kenneth Niemeyer

Images by Chad Davis’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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