The jury reached their Kim Potter verdict after four days of deliberations on Thursday, declaring the former officer guilty of all charges as they weigh first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for the police killing of an unarmed Black man, 20-year-old Daunte Wright.
Pulled over during a training exercise for newly recruited officers, Daunte Wright was fatally shot after veteran officer Kim Potter panicked and mistook her firearm for her taser. Weighing the facts of the case against her emotional testimony, the jury reached their decision after over 24 hours of deliberation.
Requesting the review of bodycam footage of the incident once more, the jury sent a letter to the court on Wednesday asking what protocol would be if they could not come to a decision by collectively reaching a verdict. Fearing a hung jury, experts previously thought that the case could have continued past the Christmas holiday into 2022.
“If the jury cannot reach consensus, what is the guidance around how long and what steps should be taken?” the jury allegedly asked the court.
Judge Regina Chu responded stating that the jury should continue to “deliberate with a view toward reaching agreement if you can do so without violating your individual judgment.”
The jury also asked if the handgun, which was now unloaded, could be released and brought to the room for deliberations. During the trial, the prosecution argued that the handgun not only weighed significantly more than the taser, but that the taser was a bright yellow color compared to the police-issued firearm.
Former officer Kim Potter, 49, plead not guilty to the charges of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter, with her defense team stating that she mistook the one weapon for the other in the chaos, as Daunte Wright resisted arrest and threatened the lives of her trainees.
Pulled over after the officer ran his license plates, they found a warrant out for his arrest after he failed to appear in court for a misdemeanor firearm charge. Refusing to go with the officers, Daunte Wright attempted to drive away when one of the trainees reached in and grabbed his car’s transmission shift, while the other grabbed the steering wheel.
Not letting go as Daunte Wright started to drive off, the trainee’s had a “fear” in their eyes that officer Kim Potter stated she had never seen before throughout her many years on the force. She yelled “taser! taser!” as she readied to subdue the young man, accidentally pulling out here firearm. She fired one shot, killing Daunte Wright on the scene.
“Everybody makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect,” said Potter’s defense attorney Earl Gray. “This lady made a mistake, and a mistake is not a crime.”
“Even though she didn’t know she was using it,” Gray said of the former officer’s firearm, “she had the right to [fire], and that’s what the law is.”
Taking the stand earlier in the trial, Kim Potter testified that she was sorry and that she “didn’t want to hurt anybody.” She said that she had never fired her weapon on the job before, not even her taser.
The jury was tasked to decide if they agreed that Potter displayed recklessness unbefitting of a law enforcement officer that led to the killing of a Daunte Wright, or if it was simply a preventable accident, and not a criminal act, as the defense has argued.
Prosecuting attorney Erin Eldridge stated at the time that her excuse was “not a defense to the crimes charged,” and that “accidents can still be crimes if they occur because of recklessness or culpable negligence.”