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Jury deliberates in Kim Potter trial over Daunte Wright's death

ABC News logo ABC News 12/23/2021
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The trial of former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter charged in the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot during a traffic stop, continues with Potter taking the stand to testify in her own defense.

Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 incident. She has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

A screen grab from police video which shows the traffic stop during which Daunte Wright is fatally shot by Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter (not visible in this frame) in Minneapolis, Dec. 8, 2021. © Court TV via AP, Pool A screen grab from police video which shows the traffic stop during which Daunte Wright is fatally shot by Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter (not visible in this frame) in Minneapolis, Dec. 8, 2021.

MORE: Former officer Kim Potter set to go on trial in death of Daunte Wright

Signs stand on the south lawn, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis where jury selection begins for former police officer Kim Potter, who shot and killed motorist Daunte Wright. © Jim Mone/AP Signs stand on the south lawn, Nov. 30, 2021, at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis where jury selection begins for former police officer Kim Potter, who shot and killed motorist Daunte Wright.

The maximum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is 15 years and a $30,000 fine and for second-degree manslaughter, it's 10 years and a $20,000 fine.

Wright's death reignited protests against racism and police brutality across the U.S., as the killing took place just outside of Minneapolis, where the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was taking place.

 

Latest Developments

Dec 22, 7:15 PM

Jury wraps for 3rd day without asking any questions

The third day of deliberations in the trial of Kim Potter ended Wednesday evening as it began: very quietly.

The jury asked no new questions, after asking the judge Tuesday afternoon what would happen if they can't agree on a verdict. Judge Regina Chu told them to go back and keep trying.

The jury has spent about 24 hours in deliberation over the course of three days.

Deliberations are expected to resume at about 10 a.m. ET on Thursday. In the event a verdict has not been reached by the end of Thursday, it's expected that the court will take Christmas Eve off, as well as this coming weekend.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

 
Dec 21, 7:24 PM

Jury ends 2nd day of deliberations

The jury has ended their deliberations for the day and is expected to reconvene Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. CT.

Tuesday marked the jury’s first full day of deliberations, following the initial deliberations Monday afternoon that lasted roughly five hours. 

In the event a verdict has not been reached by the end of Thursday, the court is expected to take Friday -- Christmas Eve -- off, as well as this coming weekend.

Judge Regina Chu has repeatedly promised the jury they won’t be stuck in deliberation for the holiday “no matter what.” If deliberations go past Thursday, they may not pick back up again until the following Monday, Dec. 27.

— ABC News’ Sasha Pezenik

 
Dec 21, 5:47 PM

Jury asks question about not reaching consensus

The jury asked two questions at 5 p.m. ET.

"The first question is: 'If the jury cannot reach consensus, what is the guidance around how long and what steps should be taken?'" Judge Regina Chu read. 

She then re-read some of the juror instructions.  

"You should discuss the case with one another and deliberate with a view toward reaching an agreement if you can do so without violating your individual judgment," Chu said. "You should decide the case for yourself but only after you have discussed the case with your fellow jurors and have carefully considered their views." 

She added, "You should not hesitate to reexamine your views and change your opinion if you believe they are erroneous, but you should not surrender your honest opinion, simply because other jurors disagree or merely to reach a verdict." 

The jury also asked if the zip ties can be removed from Potter's gun, which has been submitted as evidence so it can be held out of the evidence box. 

Chu said yes.

 
Dec 21, 10:29 AM

Jury deliberations resume

The jury has reconvened for its second day of deliberations. The court will not be called into session Tuesday morning.

 
Dec 20, 8:27 PM

Jury ends deliberations for the day

The jury has ended deliberations for the day after approximately five hours. They will resume Tuesday morning.

During these deliberations, the jury is fully sequestered. They will be allowed to call family members so long as they don’t talk about the trial.

 
Dec 20, 5:09 PM

Jury asks about psychologist's interview with Potter

Jurors collectively asked the judge what the date was of Kim Potter's interview with Dr. Laurence Miller, a psychologist who served as a defense witness.

"All the evidence is in," Judge Regina Chu told the jury. "So you should rely on your collective memory as to what the evidence is."

Miller interviewed Potter after the April 11 fatal shooting of Daunte Wright. 

Prosecutors wanted to question Miller about the interview, but Chu sustained the defense’s objection against the line of questioning. 

Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter testifies in court in Minneapolis, Dec. 17, 2021. © Court TV, via AP, Pool Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter testifies in court in Minneapolis, Dec. 17, 2021.

The interview was brought up by the prosecution in the cross-examination of Potter on the witness stand.

Prosecutor Erin Eldridge asked Potter about the differences between her answers in her interview with Miller and her testimony on the stand.

Eldridge asked Potter why she told Miller she didn't know why she decided to use her stun gun, when she testified before the jury that she used it because she saw fear on an accompanying officer's face.

Eldridge also asked Potter about telling Miller that she saw her gun in her right hand during the incident, though Potter testified that she did not remember much about the incident.

 "I was distraught," Potter responded. "I wasn't in a good place."

Eldridge also asked Potter about her resignation following the shooting, in which Potter told Miller that she did it to "protect her police family."

 
Dec 20, 2:04 PM

Jury deliberations begin

Judge Regina Chu has read the instructions to the jury and they will now deliberate on the charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter against former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter.

Included in the instructions are reminders of unconscious bias: "We all have feelings, assumptions, perceptions, fears, and stereotypes about others," Chu read to the jury. "Some biases we are aware of and others we might not be fully aware of, which is why they are called 'implicit' or 'unconscious biases.'"

"The law demands that you make a fair decision, based solely on the evidence, your individual evaluations of that evidence, your reason and common sense, and these instructions," Chu read from the instructions.

 
Dec 20, 1:47 PM

Prosecution, defense spar on Sgt. Mychal Johnson's testimony

In closing arguments, the defense said that Kim Potter was within her rights to use deadly force against Daunte Wright because he could have hurt another police officer with his car. 

The defense claims Wright could have driven off, dragging Sgt. Mychal Johnson.

"What would have happened to Johnson? The worst would be death if he took off like he did -- like a jet," defense attorney Earl Gray said. 

"[Potter] said she saw Johnson, that she saw him and he had a look on his face she'd never seen," Gray added. "That was right before she said 'Taser, Taser.'"

Defense attorney Earl Gray delivers closing arguments, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter's trial for the April 11, 2021, death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. © Pool/AP Defense attorney Earl Gray delivers closing arguments, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter's trial for the April 11, 2021, death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn.

The prosecution argues there is no evidence that shows Potter was using force for Johnson's protection or that Johnson was afraid for his life. 

"Johnson was clearly not afraid of being dragged," said prosecutor Matthew Frank. He never said he was scared. He didn't say it then. And he didn't testify to it in court."

Prosecutors said Johnson wasn't halfway into the car at the time of the shooting, and that he was "all the way over to the passenger side securing Mr. Wright's right arm." 

Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter testifies in court in Minneapolis, Dec. 17, 2021. © Court TV, via AP, Pool Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter testifies in court in Minneapolis, Dec. 17, 2021.

Prosecutors also pointed to Potter's reaction after the shooting, when she sobbed on the ground and said she would be going to jail in the body camera footage.

"When Sergeant Johnson said 'he was trying to drive away with me in the car,' which isn't even true, but he offered that to her and she didn't even bite on it," Frank told jurors. "She was so caught up in recognition of the wrongfulness of her own conduct."

 
Dec 20, 12:57 PM

Defense tells jury that state has the burden of proof

Defense attorney Earl Gray told the jury to remember that "your constitutional duty is to presume Kim Potter innocent. And before you can find her guilty, you must find each and every element of the charges is proven beyond a reasonable doubt."

It is on the prosecution to prove Potter is guilty. It is not the responsibility of the defense to prove her not guilty, according to Gray and prosecutor Erin Eldridge. Gray argued throughout the trial that it was within Potter's right to use deadly force against a fleeing subject.

"The state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's use of deadly force was not authorized by law," Gray said. "You must presume that she had a right authorized use of deadly force, that she had a right to do it."

"This is the most important affair in the client's life," Gray said.

 
Dec 20, 12:49 PM

Defense argues that Wright caused his death

Defense attorney Earl Gray said that Daunte Wright, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop, caused his own death. Officers tried to arrest Wright, but he attempted to get back in his car to flee, police said.

"Wright realizes there's a warrant for his arrest, and he knows what he knows," Gray argued. "So within seconds, he all of a sudden breaks away. That's the cause, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. That's what caused this whole incident."

Wright was being arrested for an outstanding warrant on a gross misdemeanor weapons charge, according to authorities.

"Daunte Wright caused his death," Gray said during closing arguments Monday. "Everything the officers did, they did to try and restrain him try and stop him from leaving."

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