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Third day of jury deliberation ends without verdicts in Kimberly Potter manslaughter trial

22December 2021

The jury in the manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter ended a third day of deliberations Wednesday in Minneapolis without a verdict in the death of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop April 11.

The jury finished the day without sending a single note or query to Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu. Jurors received the case at 12:45 p.m. Monday and have deliberated a total of about 24 hours. They are expected to reconvene Thursday morning.

Potter, 49, faces several years in prison if convicted of either first- or second-degree manslaughter in the death of the 20-year-old Wright. Police body-worn camera video taken during the fatal shooting showed Potter shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!” at Wright as he tried to evade arrest on a weapons violation warrant.

But instead of unholstering her Taser from her left hip, Potter grabbed her Glock handgun from her right. She fired a single shot, striking Wright in the heart. On the video, Potter appeared devastated by what she had done and collapsed to the ground.

Defense attorneys argued that Potter’s mistake wasn’t a “conscious” decision, so she should not be punished. Prosecutors said Potter was a highly trained 26-year veteran whose error was egregious enough to be criminal.

By law, jury deliberations occur behind closed doors so that no one has access or influence over their them. The only insight into the deliberations occurs when jurors send a formal written question or notice to the judge through the sheriff’s deputy watching over them.

The sequestered Potter jury of six women and six men sent nothing to Chu on Wednesday.

Outside the 24-story Hennepin County Government Center, a group of about 50 protesters kept up a chilly vigil on the south side among signs bearing Wright’s face and planted in the snowy lawn. “What is taking so long?” activist Brandyn Tulloch asked the group. “We all saw the video. We all saw her reaction to what she did.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the coming holiday weekend, the rest of the building and most of downtown were darker and quieter than normal.

Activist Jonathan McClellan of the Minnesota Justice Coalition said he was “a little anxious” about how long deliberations were taking and concerned that the bias of the largely white jury might preclude a guilty verdict. “There should be a conviction on both counts,” he said.

The jury has been asked to fill out two verdict forms, deciding whether the former officer is guilty of either or both charges. The jury was last heard from at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when the panel convened in the courtroom with Chu, Potter, her family and the lawyers to pose two questions.

Their first question: “If the jury cannot reach consensus, what is the guidance around how long and what steps should be taken?”

Chu re-read an excerpt from the jury instructions she gave a day earlier before deliberations began, telling them to continue working toward unanimity without violating their individual judgment.

The jurors’ other question had to do with removing zip ties securing Potter’s gun to a cardboard box so they could hold the unloaded Glock.

The jurors reconvened Wednesday at 8:25 a.m. and wrapped up about 6 p.m.

In Potter’s case, nine of the jurors are white, two are Asian women and one is a Black woman. 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.

In most other recent cases involving law enforcement defendants, juries have been speedier in reaching agreement.

In April, jurors took nine hours to convict former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd. In 2020, a Washington County jury took a day to acquit sheriff’s deputy Brian Krook of killing Benjamin Evans. In 2019, jurors convicted former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor of killing Justine Ruszczyk Damond after about 10 hours of deliberations.

An exception was former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was acquitted in 2017 of killing Philando Castile. His jury deliberated for 30 hours over five days.

Staff Writers Randy Furst and Kim Hyatt contributed to this report.

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