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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Experts: Potter missed a chance to explain the taser confusion


The former Minnesota police officer who shot Dount Wright, then tears, then remorse, then harsh, prosaic responses, testified at trial on charges of manslaughter in the death of a black motorist.

But Kim Potter’s testimony on Friday was noticeably meager on a key element of her defense – that she made the mistake of pulling out a pistol instead of a stun gun and killing Wright during a traffic stop last April at Brooklyn Center.

One legal expert who spoke to the Associated Press said the defense might have been intentionally vague about the matter, but others said Potter seemed to have missed the opportunity to tell the jury how the confusion could have happened and what she was thinking. … what the jury was probably expecting to hear.

“I didn’t think they got enough out of Potter because we hadn’t entered her mind,” said Marsh Halberg, a Minneapolis attorney unrelated to the case.

During interrogation by her attorney Earl Gray, Potter testified that when the officers fought Wright, she saw her superior, a sergeant. Michal Johnson leans over to the car with a “look of fear” on his face. When she was crying at the stand, she continued: “I remember shouting ‘Taser, stun gun, stun gun’ and nothing happened, and then he told me that I shot him.” Camera video recorded Wright saying, “Oh, he shot me,” before the car took off.

“He made her admit that she saw fear on Johnson’s face, but he didn’t investigate further,” said John Baker, a former defense attorney who now trains aspiring police officers at St. Cloud State University. “He had to go a lot further and ask her to give additional evidence on this matter,” Baker said.

He added that Gray didn’t ask Potter to explain the error, saying, “They didn’t even fix it.”

Mike Brandt, another Minneapolis attorney overseeing the case, said breaking down the shooting moments could have been effective, but the defense “made the tactical decision that it wasn’t necessary and left it perhaps more vague if you will. “

Brandt said the purpose of putting Potter, white, on the booth, was to humanize her for the jury, which he believed was a success. Brandt said that Gray did a good job using Potter’s words to paint a picture of a woman who was inspired to become an officer at an early age, who had no complaints about her, and who did not seek to advance through the ranks because she enjoyed working for street.

While the experts believed Potter’s tears were sincere, they had mixed views on how her emotions could play out in the jury.

“It was actually almost excruciating, especially on the cross. Her expression looked like she was actively reliving the trauma of the experience, ”said Rachel Moran, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas.

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Moran said it was hard not to believe that Potter was scared and regretted what she did. But while some people may sympathize with Potter, others may disagree with the fact that she needed to be comforted after the shooting when all the attention was supposed to be on Wright, Moran said.

Moran said that the fact that her lawyers hadn’t entered Potter’s mindset was “odd,” saying that she believed one of the first questions to ask was whether Potter was going to shoot Wright.

Experts said that Erin Eldridge, the prosecutor who interrogated Potter, is generally strong at cross-examination.

Brandt said that Potter came across as overly defensive and a little belligerent when she gave short answers to Eldridge, but he said that Eldridge began to look like a “bully” when Potter began to cry. Moran said that Eldridge was not particularly aggressive, but continued to “bulldoze” during cross-examination, even when Potter had what Moran called “apparent breakdown.” She said it was difficult to say how this would affect the jury.

Moran also said that Potter’s immediate reaction to the shooting, which is visible in the police videos, shows that she knew she had done something horribly wrong and had no intention of using her weapon. She said that Eldridge had convincingly proven this in cross-examination.

It is noteworthy that Eldridge at some point convinced Potter to agree that she was not planning on using lethal force – Potter’s lawyers argued that even if it was not a mistake, Potter would have been justified in using lethal force because she feared life Johnson. was in danger.

Baker said that in another highlight, Eldridge walked Potter through the body camera video and showed Potter what she was doing.

“It was really awful when she got a video of her freeze frame of her holding her hand on what appeared to be her weapon as she was still standing and about to enter,” Baker said. “I think she did a great job to bring her to justice.”

Baker said that if the jury had started deliberating soon after Potter’s testimony, her emotional expression might have had a greater effect. He said that the weekend between her testimony and her closing arguments gave the jury some distance.

The lawyers said Potter’s testimony was not as convincing as they expected.

Baker said the defense spent too much time justifying stopping the movement and did not pay enough attention to the moments when she pulled out a pistol instead of a stun gun. Baker said that Potter did not provide any explanation for what she did at that point in what he described as “problematic to defend.”

Halberg added on Friday: “I thought there would be a knockout today. But that was not the case. “

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