What to know about the trial of ex-officer Kim Potter who killed Daunte Wright: NPR

Former Brooklyn Center, Minn., Police officer Kim Potter poses for a mug shot at Hennepin County Jail in Minneapolis on April 14. Potter, a 26-year-old police veteran, was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, whom she shot and killed after a traffic jam.

Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office / Getty Images

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Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office / Getty Images

Former Brooklyn Center, Minn., Police officer Kim Potter poses for a mug shot at Hennepin County Jail in Minneapolis on April 14. Potter, a 26-year-old police veteran, was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, whom she shot and killed after a traffic jam.

Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office / Getty Images

The jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer, Minn., Who said she confused her weapon with her Taser when she shot and killed a 20-year-old black man named Daunte Wright in April.

Potter, who is white, faces two charges of manslaughter. Her criminal case is expected to begin in early December.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree that the shooting was an accident. But prosecutors, led by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, say Potter’s actions were criminally negligent.

Defense attorneys have argued that because Wright resisted arrest, the use of force was permitted and that Potter was unaware that she was holding her gun and therefore innocent.

The shooting took place as the Minneapolis area was already on edge over the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who murdered George Floyd. His trial took place about 10 miles away. After Wright’s killing, days raged with protests in the Brooklyn Center, a diverse inner ring suburb just across the city line from Minneapolis.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday, Dec. 8, the judge said. The trial is expected to end on Christmas Eve. Potter is likely to testify in her own defense, her attorneys suggested during the jury selection Tuesday.

Here’s what else you need to know:

The shooting on April 11, 2021

On the afternoon of April 11, Potter trained a new officer. Together they drew a white Buick. Wright was driving and his girlfriend was sitting in the passenger seat, according to his family.

The trainee, Anthony Luckey, told Wright that he had been stopped because an air freshener hung from his rearview mirror – a minor traffic offense in Minnesota – and because his license plate flags had expired, according to the criminal complaint.

During the stop, officers discovered an arrest warrant for Wright because he did not appear in court because of a gun charge stemming from an incident in which he fled police the previous summer.

After finding the verdict, Luckey asked Wright to leave the car. But when Luckey tried to handcuff him, Wright pulled away and tried to dive back into the car.

When Potter shouted warnings that she would use her Taser, she drew her gun and fired once, hitting Wright in his left side.

Less than a minute passed from the moment Wright was asked to step out of the car to the moment Potter fired his gun.

The bullet went through both Wright’s lungs and his heart, killing him. He was pronounced dead at the scene several minutes later.

Potter says she intended to use her Taser, and her body camera footage will be key evidence

The key to the trial will be the footage from Potter’s body-worn camera, which recorded the entire incident. Police released the footage in the days after the shooting.

The video clearly shows Wright’s attempt to escape arrest. Wright was pushed against the back door of the driver’s side as Luckey tried to handcuff him. Potter went to help, but Wright pulled his arm away and ducked back into the driver’s seat.

In the video, Potter can be heard shouting, “I’m gonna tase you” and “Taser, Taser, Taser!” when she drew and fired her gun.

Afterwards, while her body-worn camera was still recording, Potter said, “S ***!” and “I just shot him.” According to the indictment, she remarked to another officer that she “grabbed the wrong damn gun” and that she “was going to jail.”

Potter had a light yellow plastic Taser holster on her left hip and a Glock 9mm pistol holster on her right, according to the criminal complaint.

During her 26 years of service, Potter had received “a significant amount of training” related to Tasers, prosecutors say, including two Taser-specific courses in the six months prior to the shooting.

What charges does Potter face?

Potter faces two counts: first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter.

Initially, prosecutors sought only the lower charge. But in September, prosecutors added a charge of first-degree manslaughter.

In Minnesota, a person can be convicted of first-degree manslaughter if they cause someone else’s death while committing a misdemeanor – in this case, reckless handling of a firearm. Second-degree manslaughter, on the other hand, requires prosecutors to prove only that the defendant acted with “guilty negligence,” as the defendant knowingly committed acts that created an “unreasonable risk” of causing death or grievous bodily harm.

Defense attorneys asked Judge Regina Chu to dismiss the more serious charge, but Chu dismissed their proposal, saying the charges had successfully established probable cause to charge her.

The prosecutors have a maximum sentence of 15 years and 10 years respectively. But prosecutors have also asked the judge to consider a harsher sentence than usual if Potter is convicted.

Only two Minnesota police officers have been convicted of killing a civilian during service. The first was Mohamed Noor, a black Somali American officer convicted of manslaughter for killing Justine Damond, a white woman.

The other was Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd and was convicted of two counts of murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Officers who mistakenly use their gun instead of a Taser are rare, but not unheard of. In 2010, a former police officer named Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after shooting Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black man, at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California. Mehserle said during his criminal case that he intended to use his Taser.

The case touches on heated issues and is expected to be seen a lot

Like other criminal cases this year that dealt with criminal justice issues – the trial of Derek Chauvin, Kyle Rittenhouse, the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery – Potter’s trial is expected to be watched by many.

Cameras will be allowed in the courthouse, the judge has ruled. The lawsuit is likely to be livestreamed by local and national media.

Nearly all potential jurors told the court Tuesday that they had heard about the shooting, which took place when the Minneapolis area was already uneasy about the Chauvin trial.

Many had already seen the body camera footage, and several expressed strong opinions about Potter or Wright.

In addition to the facts of the case, prosecutors and defense attorneys tried to expose bias in jurors by asking them about their feelings about race and policing: Do they think black and white people are treated differently under the criminal justice system? How do they feel about gun ownership or defundering the police? What were their feelings about the racial justice protests that took place in Minneapolis after George Floyd’s murder and the property damage that took place at the time?

Several jurors sat Tuesday, including a special education teacher and a manager at a Target distribution center.

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