Second day of deliberations continues into afternoon in Kimberly Potter manslaughter trial

21December 2021

The second day of deliberations continued into the afternoon Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright.

After a morning of closing arguments, the jury received the case early Monday afternoon and stopped deliberating at 6 p.m.

As previously ordered by Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu, the jurors will remain sequestered throughout deliberations until they reach unanimous verdicts on two counts, first- and second-degree manslaughter.

Six women and six men are on the jury. Nine are white, two are Asian women and one is a Black woman. Potter is white, Wright was Black.

Four jurors are in their 40s, three are in their 20s, two are in their 60s, two are in their 50s and one is in her 30s.

During the closing arguments, no one disputed Potter made a mistake, but prosecutor Matthew Frank said that’s not a legitimate defense. He and fellow prosecutor Erin Eldridge repeatedly cited Potter’s years of training as a 26-year veteran who should have known better than to grab her gun from her right hip when she meant to grab the Taser from her left.

“This was no little oopsie,” Eldridge said. “This was a colossal screwup, a blunder of epic proportions. It was precisely the thing she had been warned about for years, and she was trained to prevent it. It was irreversible and fatal.”

In response, defense lawyer Earl Gray asked how Potter could be found to “recklessly, consciously handle a gun” when she thought she was holding a Taser. “It’s totally believable, totally true she didn’t know she had her gun,” he said. “She’d never shot her gun in 26 years.”

Frank provided the rebuttal argument, the final word, after Eldridge gave the state’s initial closings and Gray spoke for Potter. If the jury convicts the 49-year-old Potter of either charge, she faces a sentence of several years.

Gray argued that Potter, who testified tearfully in her own defense Friday, made a mistake in firing her gun instead of her Taser but also that she was justified in using deadly force because Wright had a warrant for illegal possession of a firearm and was trying to flee at the risk of dragging her sergeant.

The defense attorney was dismissive of the prosecution’s use-of-force expert, Seth Stoughton, a law professor from the University of South Carolina, who testified that the officers should have let Wright leave and arrest him later.

“That’s not protecting the public,” Gray said. “That’s not serving the public. They had to stop him.”

Eldridge, however, said Wright was not armed and posed no threat to the officers.

“Accidents can still be crimes if they occur as a result of recklessness or culpable negligence,” Eldridge said, adding that Potter’s failure to recognize that she was holding her gun instead of her Taser “establishes her recklessness.”

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