The suburban Minneapolis police officer who says she meant to use her Taser instead of her gun when she shot and killed Black motorist Daunte Wright made a “blunder of epic proportions” and did not have “a license to kill,” a prosecutor told jurors on Monday shortly before they began deliberating in her manslaughter trial.
Kim Potter’s attorney Earl Gray countered during closing arguments that the former Brooklyn Center officer made an honest mistake by pulling her handgun instead of her Taser and that shooting Wright wasn’t a crime.
“In the walk of life, nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes,” Gray said. “My gosh, a mistake is not a crime. It just isn’t in our freedom-loving country.”
The mostly white jury began deliberating shortly before 1 p.m. and quit for the day around 6 p.m. without reaching a verdict. They will be sequestered until they finish. Potter, who is white, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 shooting, which came after Wright was pulled over for having expired license plate tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.
Prosecutor Erin Eldridge said during her summation that Wright’s death was “entirely preventable. Totally avoidable.” Claiming it was a mistake is not a defense, she said, pointing out that the words ”accident” and “mistake” don’t appear in jury instructions.
“Accidents can still be crimes if they occur as a result of reckless or culpable negligence,” Eldridge said.
“She drew a deadly weapon,” Eldridge said. “She aimed it. She pointed it at Daunte Wright’s chest, and she fired.”
Gray argued that Wright “caused the whole incident” because he tried to flee from police during a traffic stop. Potter mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser because the traffic stop “was chaos,” he said.
“Daunte Wright caused his own death, unfortunately,” he asserted.
Potter, 49, testified Friday that she “didn’t want to hurt anybody,” that she was “sorry it happened” and that she doesn’t remember what she said or everything that happened after the shooting, as much of her memory of those moments “is missing.”
Eldridge said Monday that the case wasn’t about whether Potter was sorry.
“Of course she feels bad about what she did. … But that has no place in your deliberations,” she said.
Playing Potter’s body camera video frame by frame, Eldridge sought to raise doubts about Potter’s testimony that she fired after seeing “fear” on the face of another officer, then-Sgt. Mychal Johnson, who was leaning into the car’s passenger-side door and trying to handcuff Wright.
The defense has argued that Johnson was at risk of being dragged and that Potter would have been justified in using deadly force. But Eldridge pointed out to jurors that for much of the interaction Potter was behind a third officer, whom she was training, and that Johnson didn’t come into her camera’s view until after the shot was fired — and then it showed the top of his head as he backed away.
“Sgt. Johnson was clearly not afraid of being dragged,” Eldridge said. “He never said he was scared. He didn’t say it then, and he didn’t testify to it in court.”
Jurors sent a note to the judge Monday afternoon asking for the date that Potter spoke with Laurence Miller, a psychologist who testified for the defense. The judge told the jurors that all the evidence was in, “so you should rely on your collective memories.” They then returned to the jury room.
When Potter was testifying, she agreed with Eldridge that she had decided to use her Taser after she saw that Johnson looked scared. But Eldridge pointed out an inconsistency, saying that when Potter spoke to Miller, she told him she didn’t know why she used her Taser. Potter told the jury she didn’t recall saying that.
Source: AP News