MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – A jury on Thursday convicted a suburban Minneapolis policeman on two charges of manslaughter in the murder of Downta Wright, a black motorist she shot to death during a traffic stop after she said she confused a gun for a stun gun.
A jury, mostly white, sat for about four days before finding former Brooklyn Center employee Kim Potter guilty of first and second degree manslaughter. Potter, 49, faces about seven years in prison on the most serious charge under state guidelines, but prosecutors said they would seek a longer sentence.
Judge Regina Chu ordered the detention of Potter and without bail, and sentenced her on February 18.
Potter, who testified that she “did not want to offend anyone,” looked down without showing any visible reaction as the verdicts were announced. When Chu thanked the jury, Potter was baptized.
Potter’s lawyers opposed her being held without bail, saying she was not going to commit another crime or go anywhere.
WATCH: Jury Discuss Trial of Kim Potter, Former Officer Who Killed Dount Wright – Day 12
“Her remorse and regret for what happened is irresistible,” said Potter’s lawyer Paul Ang. “She poses no danger to society.”
Chu rejected their arguments.
“I cannot view this case any differently from any other case,” she said.
When Potter was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs, the man shouted: “We love you, Kim!” Meanwhile, outside the courthouse, a group of people chanted: “Say his name! Dount Wright “. Some had yellow placards with the words “guilty” in large block letters.
White Potter shot and killed 20-year-old Wright during a traffic stop on April 11 at Brooklyn Center as she and other officers tried to arrest him on an unfulfilled warrant on weapons charges. The shooting came at a time of high tensions in the area when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Choven stood trial for the murder of George Floyd. Potter retired two days later.
The jury saw video footage of the shooting made on police television cameras and video recorders. It showed how Potter and the officer she trains, Anthony Lucky, stopped Wright due to expired license plate tags and air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. During the stop, Lucky discovered that there was an arrest warrant for Wright for failing to appear in court on charges of possession of weapons, and he, Potter and another officer went to arrest Wright.
Wright followed Lucky’s order to get out of the car, but when Lucky tried to handcuff him, Wright pulled back and returned. When Lucky was holding onto Wright, Potter said, “I’m teasing you.” The video then shows Potter holding a pistol in his right hand and pointing it at Wright. And again Potter said: “I’ll take you off,” and two seconds later: “Electric shock, electric shock, electric shock.” A second later, she fired a single bullet into Wright’s chest.
“(Swearing)! I just shot him. … I grabbed the wrong (expletive) gun, ”Potter said. After a minute she said, “I’m going to jail.”
In an at times tearful testimony, Potter told the jury that she was “sorry it happened.” She said that the traffic stop “just got chaotic,” and that she shouted her shock warning after seeing the look of fear on the sergeant’s face. Michal Johnson, leaning against the passenger side door of Wright’s car. She also told the jury that she did not remember what she said or what happened after the shooting, as much of her recollection of those moments was “missing”.
Potter’s lawyers argued that she made the mistake of pulling out a pistol instead of a stun gun. But they also said that she would have an excuse to use lethal force if she wanted to, because Johnson was in danger of being dragged away.
The prosecutor’s office tried to raise doubts about Potter’s testimony that she decided to act after seeing the fear on Johnson’s face. Attorney Erin Eldridge, during cross-examination, indicated that in an interview with a defense expert, Potter said that she did not know why she decided to draw her stun gun. During her closing argument, Eldridge also replayed Potter’s body camera video, which she said never gave a clear image of Johnson’s face at key moments.
Eldridge also downplayed the testimony of some other officers who described Potter as a good person or said they saw nothing wrong with her actions: “The defendant is in trouble and her police family is supporting her.”
The prosecutor’s office also forced Potter to agree that she was not planning on using lethal force. They said that Potter, an experienced officer with extensive training in the use of stun guns and lethal force, had acted rashly and issued a badge.
In a first-degree manslaughter case, prosecutors had to prove that Potter caused Wright’s death by misconduct – in this case, “recklessly handling or using a firearm in such a way as to endanger the safety of another person with such force and brutality that death or a great death. ” bodily harm to any person could reasonably be foreseen. “
The second-degree manslaughter charge required prosecutors to prove that Potter caused Wright’s death “by her guilty negligence,” which means she “caused an unreasonable risk and knowingly risked causing Wright death or serious bodily harm” by using or possessing a firearm. …
Under Minnesota law, defendants are only sentenced on the most serious charge if multiple counts relate to the same act and the same victim. Prosecutors said they would seek to prove aggravating circumstances that deserve what is called an upward deviation from sentencing guidelines. In Potter’s case, they argued that her actions posed a danger to others, including her fellow officers, Wright’s passenger, and a couple whose car was hit by Wright after the shooting. They also alleged that she had abused her powers as a police officer.
The maximum term for first degree manslaughter is 15 years.