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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

With the jury, Potter’s trial moves on to the opening statements.


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Jurors will be presented with vastly different views of the Minnesota police officer who killed black motorist Dunte Wright during opening statements at Wednesday’s manslaughter trial, with defense alleging that Kim Potter made an innocent mistake by pulling out a gun instead of pistol. her stun gun and accusation portraying her as a veteran police officer with extensive training warning of such confusion.

Potter, 49, is charged with first and second degree manslaughter in the April 11 murder of Wright at Brooklyn Center. A white former officer – she retired two days after the shooting – said she intended to use her stun gun on 20-year-old Wright after he tried to drive away from a traffic stop as police tried to arrest him but she grabbed her pistol instead of this.

Her body camera recorded the shooting.

Last week, a largely white jury met and set the stage for testifying in a case that sparked angry demonstrations outside the Brooklyn Center police station last spring. The demonstrations, in which protesters often clashed with police in protective gear, took place when former Minneapolis officer Derek Choven was on trial just 16 kilometers outside the city for the murder of George Floyd.

Potter was training a new officer when they stopped Wright due to expired license plate tags and air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, according to a criminal lawsuit.

When they discovered that Wright had an unpaid arrest warrant, they tried to arrest him, but instead of cooperating, he returned to his car. Potter’s body camera footage captured her screaming “Taser, Taser, Taser” and “I’ll take you off” before she fired her pistol. After that, you can hear her say: “I grabbed the wrong (expletive) pistol.”

To back up their claim that it was an accident, defense attorneys highlighted Potter’s immediate reaction and later body camera footage that was not visible to the general public, in which Potter allegedly repeatedly expressed remorse. But they also argued that Potter had the right to use lethal force if she did so knowingly, because Wright’s actions endangered other officers at the scene.

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“She felt the use of a stun gun was appropriate when she saw Mr. Wright’s pathetic denial of his lawful arrest, coupled with his attempted escape,” wrote attorney Paul Eng in pre-trial filings seeking to drop one of the charges. “She could have shot him.”

Prosecutors countered that Potter was trained to use the stun gun several times over her 26-year police career, including twice in the six months leading up to the shooting. In one of their pre-trial documents, they referred to training that explicitly warns officers not to confuse a pistol with a stun gun and instructs them to “study the differences between their stun gun and firearms to avoid such confusion.”

Potter, they stated in their documents, “deliberately and deliberately acted, deciding to use force on Downta Wright and reaching for the weapon, pulling it out, pointing at it and manipulating it.”

The case will be reviewed by a jury of 14 people, including two white deputies. Nine of the 12 jurors who can participate in the deliberation are white, one is black, and two are Asian.

The racial makeup of the jury roughly matches the demographics of Hennepin County, where about 74% are white. But the jury is noticeably less diverse than those that convicted Chauvin for Floyd’s murder.

Potter told the court that she would testify.

The most serious charge against Potter requires prosecutors to prove recklessness, while the lesser requires them to prove guilty negligence. Minnesota’s Sentencing Guidelines provide for a prison sentence of just over seven years for first-degree manslaughter and four years for second-degree murder. Prosecutors said they would seek a longer sentence.


This story has been updated to reflect that the opening statements have not yet begun.


Find full coverage of the Dunte Wright case at AP: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright

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