Kim Potter will be convicted in the death of Daunte Wright : NPR
A judge will decide on Friday whether former police officer Kim Potter faces jail time after being found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright.
Potter, who apparently mistook her handgun for her Taser when she fatally shot the 20-year-old black man during a traffic stop last year, was found guilty of manslaughter at first and in the second degree during a trial in December.
Defense attorneys representing Potter have urged the judge to consider probation instead of jail time, or a shorter jail term than what Minnesota sentencing guidelines recommend – around 7 years for a first degree manslaughter.
Prosecutors, led by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, said the recommended sentence was “correct” and “reflects the seriousness of the loss” of Wright’s life.
“The sanctity of Daunte Wright’s life deserved the protection of the law like any other person,” they wrote in a court filing this month.
But prosecutors also acknowledged that Potter, who served 26 years as a police officer and has no criminal record, is unlikely to be a repeat offender. Her conviction already assures her that she will no longer be able to work as an officer or carry a weapon.
Because of this, prosecutors offered another recommendation to Judge Regina Chu: sentence Potter to a year in prison “to reflect the seriousness of Daunte Wright’s death”, as well as 10 years probation during which she speaks to law enforcement agencies of the danger of confusion of arms.
The sentencing hearing, overseen by Chu, is scheduled to begin Friday morning in Minneapolis.
Defense lawyers refer to Rodney King as they plead for a lighter sentence
In two court filings last month, Potter’s attorneys cited his “age, exemplary career [and] her crime-free life” as reasons why she should be granted clemency.
Potter is at no risk of reoffending, her attorneys said, writing that she “expressed remorse and apologized to Mr. Wright’s family on the stand, and will do so again at the sentencing”. Potter would be a “walking target” in prison, they wrote. And a prison sentence for her could exacerbate personnel problems at the Minneapolis Police Department by discouraging potential applicants, they suggested.
In arguing for a lesser prison sentence, Potter’s lawyers claimed that Wright’s behavior essentially caused Potter to commit manslaughter. At the time of the traffic stop, Wright had a warrant for his arrest on a firearms charge, and he was trying to evade arrest when Potter shot him.
“Without the violent and aggressive resistance of Mr. Wright [sic], nothing would have happened. All Mr. Wright had to do was stop, obey lawful orders, and he would be alive,” his lawyers wrote.
Potter’s lawyers cited a series of cases in which judges reached similar conclusions and handed down lighter sentences – including that of Rodney King, the black man beaten by Los Angeles police officers in 1991.
In that case, two officers who were previously acquitted of state charges were later convicted by a different jury in a federal civil rights trial.
During the sentencing hearing, the judge cited King’s drinking and “combative” behavior alongside the officers’ career and family life. He then sentenced the officers to 30 months in prison, far less than prosecutors had requested. The controversial sentence was later upheld by the United States Supreme Court.
Potter’s prosecutors called the reference to the King beating a question “bad taste and judgment”, and they disputed that Wright behaved combatively or aggressively. “He just tried to get in the driver’s seat and drive off,” they wrote.
Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images
The fatal traffic stop and the conviction for manslaughter
Kim Potter, then a 26-year veteran of the police force in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, was training a new officer on the afternoon of April 11, 2021. Together, the couple arrested Wright after noticing tabs expired on his license plate and an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror.
After a polite initial conversation, officers discovered a warrant for Wright’s arrest stemming from a firearms charge. They decided to arrest him.
Video footage from body cameras and the patrol car’s dash cam showed Wright was initially cooperative, but while handcuffed he pulled away and retreated inside. his car.
In the chaotic few seconds that followed, Potter pulled out his handgun and shouted “I’m going to taser you!” and “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing a single bullet through Wright’s chest, killing him. Immediately afterwards, she appeared shocked and said she had “grabbed the wrong gun”.
At the trial last December, attorneys for both sides agreed that she intended to draw her Taser, not her handgun.
But prosecutors convinced the jury that his mistake was so reckless that it was criminal. After several days of deliberation, the jury unanimously convicted her of the two counts of manslaughter she faced.