MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The jury in the Kim Potter trial has wrapped up a third day of deliberations Wednesday as they decide whether to convict the former Brooklyn Center police officer of manslaughter in the shooting death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop earlier this year.
The former Brooklyn Center police officer’s trial began on Nov. 30 with jury selection. The state and the defense delivered opening statements on Dec. 8, followed by a week and a half of testimony. The jury began deliberating around 12:45 p.m. CT on Monday following closing arguments. They have now been deliberating Potter's fate for over 23 hours.
The jurors resumed deliberating at 8:25 a.m. CT on Wednesday and stopped around 6 p.m. without reaching a verdict. They will remain sequestered and continue their efforts Thursday morning. When a verdict is reached, FOX 9 will broadcast the reading live on air and streaming at fox9.com/live.
Judge Regina Chu said she will not make jurors deliberate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. They will return after the holiday if they have not reached a verdict by then.
Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for shooting and killing Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center on April 11. The defense claims the shooting was an accident, that Potter, who is white, mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Wright. Prosecutors argued Potter was reckless and negligent and should go to prison.
The deadly shooting sparked days of protests outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
If convicted Potter faces up to 15 years in prison, although the state sentencing guidelines call for less. Prosecutors have already said they will seek a stiffer punishment if convicted.
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Jury asks what happens if they can't reach a verdict
The jurors worked throughout the day on Tuesday to reach a verdict, stopping at one point to ask Judge Chu two questions. First, they asked about the process if the jury was unable to come to a consensus on the verdict. In response, the judge re-read jury instructions.
For the second question, jurors wanted to handle the gun, which is zip-tied to a box. For that question, Judge Chu allowed the gun to be removed from the ties. The gun had been rendered safe and is not loaded, the judge further explained.
The defense objected to both decisions, but the judge overruled the defense.
A pool reporter in the courtroom noted the jurors were "quiet and calm, not visibly emotive, frustrated or angry. They appear neither tired nor energetic. Just relaxed."
Press conferences after verdict
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will deliver a statement either 30 or 60 minutes after a verdict is delivered and court adjourns.
Community groups and activists will also be holding a press conference after court adjourns.
Kim Potter jury
The 12-person jury consists of six men and six women. Three of the jurors are people of color, the rest are white.
Three of the jurors are in their 20s, one is in their 30s, four are in their 40s, two are in their 50s and two are in their 60s.
Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge delivered the closing arguments for the state. She began by showing photos of Wright, reminding the jury that Potter’s children will be home for the holidays, but Wright’s family members will be without their son, brother and father.
"Daunte Wright’s parents, Katie and Arbuey Wright, will have an empty seat at their table this holiday season because the defendant shot and killed him on April 11 of this year," she said.
Eldridge then went frame by frame through Potter’s body camera footage of the deadly traffic stop. She countered the defense argument that Potter was trying to protect the life of Sgt. Mychal Johnson, who was leaning into the vehicle trying to prevent Wright from driving off.
"If anyone saved Sgt. Johnson’s life, it was Daunte Wright when he took a bullet to the chest," she said.
Eldridge broke down the definition and elements of manslaughter charges, reminding jurors the state does not need to prove Potter "intended" to kill Wright during the traffic stop. Potter is not charged with murder, she said.
Eldridge told the jury Potter was trained and warned for years about not mistaking her gun and her Taser. She said Potter was "reckless and culpably negligent" for Wright’s death.
"This was no little oopsie," she said. "This was not putting the wrong date on a check. This was not entering the wrong password somewhere. This was a colossal screw-up, a blunder of epic proportions."
Eldridge ended her argument saying that Potter destroyed public trust in police to safeguard lives.
"The defendant shattered that trust when she shattered Daunte Wright’s heart," she said. "She chose right instead of left. She chose wrong instead of right."
In his closing argument, defense attorney Earl Gray made three key arguments: Wright’s actions caused his own death, Potter had the right to use deadly force and she cannot be charged with recklessly using a gun when she did not know she had one.
Gray pleaded with the jury to act upon reasonable doubt and find Potter not guilty. He argued everything Potter did was legal and blamed Wright for his taking off "like a jet" in his car after the shooting. He said Wright should have remained at the scene to get immediate medical care.
"Did they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [Potter] caused the death of Daunte Wright? No, he caused his own death," Gray said.
Gray told the jury to find Potter not guilty, arguing, "she didn’t cause this."
Some of the police experts and witnesses called to testify in the case said Potter would have been justified to use deadly force if she had intended to use her gun given the risk to Sgt. Johnson.
"She had the right to use deadly force," Gray said. "We proved it."
Gray also argued against the state’s manslaughter statute, saying, "How do you recklessly use a handgun when you didn’t know you had it?"
Earl Gray then got to the core of his defense. "In the walk of life, everyone makes mistakes," he said, adding, "My gosh, a mistake is not a crime."
Kim Potter testimony
Potter took the stand on Friday to testify in her own defense. The former officer explained what she remembered about shooting Wright, getting emotional at times during her testimony.
Potter testified she saw fear on Sgt. Johnson’s face inside the vehicle where he was attempting to keep Wright from fleeing in the vehicle, telling the jury, "it just went chaotic."
"I remember yelling, ‘Taser, Taser, Taser’ and nothing happened. And then he told me I shot him," she said.
Potter also told the jury if she had been working alone that day and not training Officer Anthony Luckey, she would not have pulled Wright’s vehicle over for such minor violations as expired tabs and air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror.
She apologized in tears, saying she did not mean to shoot Wright. "I'm sorry it happened," she said. "I'm so sorry."
What was notably absent from Potter’s testimony, however, was Potter explaining how she could have mistakenly drew her gun instead of her Taser when she shot and killed Wright.
"I think the jury would have liked to have known a little more about what was going on in her head at that moment," legal expert and criminal defense attorney Marsh Halberg said.
Kim Potter charges
Kim Potter is facing the following charges:
First-degree manslaughter - predicated on reckless use/handling of a firearm (Minnesota Statute: 609.20)
Maximum sentence: < 15 years
Description: Caused the death of Daunte Wright while committing the misdemeanor offense of reckless handling or use of a firearm so as to endanger the safety of another with such force and violence that death or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable.
Second-degree manslaughter - culpable negligence (Minnesota Statute: 609.205)
Maximum sentence: < 10 years
Description: Caused the death of Daunte Wright, by her culpable negligence, creating an unreasonable risk and consciously took a chance of causing death or great bodily harm while using or possessing a firearm.
What sentence does Kim Potter face if convicted?
Here are the presumptive sentences Potter is looking at if convicted:
- First-degree manslaughter: 86 months, or over seven years
- Second-degree manslaughter: 48 months, or four years
However, prosecutors have said they will ask for an "upward departure" from the sentencing guidelines (https://www.fox9.com/news/daunte-wright-shooting-prosecutors-seek-stiffer-punishment-for-former-officer) if Potter is convicted. Each charge has a statutory maximum the judge could go up to if she finds "aggravating factors."
Here are the aggravating factors prosecutors have said they would argue in Potter’s case:
- Potter’s conduct caused a greater-than-normal danger to the safety of other people when she fired into Wright’s vehicle in which a passenger was present and two other officers were in close proximity
- Potter abused her position of authority as a licensed police officer
If Potter is convicted of any charges and prosecutors successfully argue for an upward departure, the judge could go as high as the following sentences:
- First-degree manslaughter: Up to 15 years
- Second-degree manslaughter: Up to 10 years
Daunte Wright shooting
Shortly before 2 p.m. on the 6300 block of Orchard Avenue, Brooklyn Center police officers Anthony Luckey and Kimberly Potter stopped Daunte Wright’s vehicle for expired tabs and because he had an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.
After learning he had a warrant for a gross misdemeanor, Luckey and Potter, his field training officer, returned to Wright's vehicle to arrest him. Wright obeyed Luckey's order to get out of the vehicle, but as the officer tried to handcuff him he pulled away and tried to get back into the car.
During the struggle, Potter fired her gun, hitting Wright, who then drove several blocks before crashing into another car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Then police chief Tim Gannon released the body camera footage of the deadly traffic stop almost immediately following the incident. He was the first to publicly claim Potter mistook her gun for her Taser when she shot and killed Wright.
In the body camera footage, Potter can be heard yelling, "I’ll tase you," as she pointed her gun at Wright. She repeated, "I’ll tase you," and yelled, "Taser, Taser, Taser," before firing a single shot into Wright’s chest.