Closing arguments set for trial of ex-Minnesota cop who killed Daunte Wright

Potter, 49, was the final witness called to the stand on Friday, capping more than a week of testimony in a trial that hinges on whether the jury of six women and six men finds Potter acted recklessly or should be acquitted for a tragic mistake.

She has pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree manslaughter charges, which carry maximum sentences of 15 and 10 years respectively, saying she thought she was drawing her Taser when she shot Wright with her 9mm handgun on April 11, an assertion supported by video of her post-shooting reactions.

Having conceded that Potter made a mistake, the state has to prove that she acted recklessly in violation of the law.

In their closing argument, prosecutors are expected to stress the extensive training Potter received during her 26 years as a police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, as well as highlight the testimony of a use-of-force expert that use of either weapon on Wright was inappropriate.

“The prosecution is going to talk about three things: accountability, recklessness and the failure to render aid,” said Joe Tamburino, a criminal defense attorney not involved in the case, referring to Potter’s testimony that she did not seek to find Wright’s car and provide first aid after the shooting.

Potter’s attorneys, on the other hand, will likely point to the officers’ perceived danger of the traffic stop, given that there was an outstanding warrant for Wright’s arrest and that a woman had taken out a restraining order against him, and argue that force was justified, even if she drew the wrong weapon.

The defense is also expected to highlight the testimony of Dr. Laurence Miller, a psychologist who testified about “action error”, or when a person takes one action while intending to do another. Miller spoke about how such mistakes are common in daily life, such as inputting the wrong computer password or writing down the wrong date, and can be triggered by stress.

Potter is white and the shooting of Wright triggered several nights of intense protests outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, with critics calling it another example of police brutality against Black Americans.

The incident occurred just a few miles north of where Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, was at the same time standing trial in the case of George Floyd, a Black man whose 2020 death during an arrest set off racial justice protests in many U.S. cities. Chauvin was convicted of murder.

Potter broke down in tears on the stand, testifying that she was deeply sorry. She was not asked to explain the mistake to the jury and said she largely blacked out after the shooting.

Potter and another police officer pulled Wright over because there was an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror and his vehicle’s license tabs were expired. They then learned of a warrant for his arrest on a misdemeanor weapons charge and sought to detain him, which Wright resisted.

Potter can be heard shouting, “Taser, Taser, Taser,” on her body-worn camera before firing into Wright’s car after he broke free from a second officer. Potter testified that she feared for the life of a third officer who had entered through the passenger side, if Wright were allowed to drive away.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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