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Guilty verdict in trial of Kim Potter, former police officer who shot Daunte Wright

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Posted at 1:01 PM, Dec 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-23 15:07:57-05

A Minnesota jury has reached a guilty verdict on both charges in the case of Kim Potter, a White former police officer who fatally shot Black motorist Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April.

Potter, 49, was convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Wright, who attempted to flee during the stop. Potter, who resigned from the Brooklyn Center police force after the shooting, maintained that she intended to reach for her Taser instead of her gun.

State guidelines for the more serious charge call for a 7-year sentence.

The jury started deliberations Monday after hearing about a week and a half of testimony in the case. Late Tuesday, they asked Judge Regina Chu what they should do if they could not arrive at a verdict. Speaking with the jurors, Chu told them they needed to continue with deliberations with open minds and a willingness to listen to each other's viewpoints, CBS Minnesota reported. They returned Thursday afternoon to announce the verdict.

Potter gave emotional testimony in her own defense, saying she "didn't want to hurt anybody" and that she was "sorry it happened." But the state argued that mistakenly firing her gun instead of her Taser was not a defense.

"This was no little oopsie. This was not putting a wrong date on a check. This was not entering the wrong password somewhere," said prosecutor Erin Eldridge, an assistant attorney general, in her closing argument. "This was a colossal screw-up. A blunder of epic proportions."

The defense argued that Wright's attempt to flee officers during the traffic stop was a factor in his death.

"Within seconds, [Wright] all of a sudden breaks away. That's the cause, ladies and gentlemen of the jury," said Potter's attorney Earl Gray. "Did they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she caused this death? No. Daunte Wright caused his own death, unfortunately. But those are the cold, hard facts."

CBS Minnesota reports the jury of six men and six women heard from 25 witnesses for the prosecution and eight who testified for the defense.

Judge Chu ruled against a defense motion for a mistrial after the state's rebuttal.

The April 11 shooting in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, occurred during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of the 2020 murder of George Floyd. Floyd's death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Brooklyn Center saw unrest for days after Wright's death.