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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A jury of twelve has found Kim Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright, guilty on counts of both first- and second-degree manslaughter.
Judge Regina Chu has ordered Potter, 49, to be taken into custody immediately. Records confirm that she has been transferred to the women’s prison in Shakopee.
The verdict and setting of the sentencing date of Friday, Feb. 18 took less than 20 minutes.
Following the verdict, Potter’s husband could be heard loudly saying, “I love you, Kim.” She said “I love you” back. When the guilty verdict was first read aloud, Wright’s mother began sobbing while her husband comforted her. After the proceedings were finished, prosecutor Erin Eldridge hugged Wright’s parents, as did Attorney General Keith Ellison.
The jury had deliberated for approximately 28 hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 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.
In reading back the jury’s verdict Thursday afternoon, Judge Regina Chu said that the jury’s second-degree manslaughter verdict was reached Tuesday morning, but the guilty verdict on first-degree manslaughter was not reached until Thursday at 11:40 a.m.
Potter’s legal team asked Chu to consider allowing bail to be posted so Potter could avoid being taken into immediate custody, saying she was not a flight risk, that her crime was an accident, and that she is Catholic.
“It is the Christmas holiday season,” Potter attorney Paul Engh argued. “She’s a devoted Catholic, no less, and there is no point to incarcerate her at this point in time.”
Chu said she can not treat the case differently than any other similar case.
The maximum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is 15 years in prison. Potter is thought to face about seven years in prison on the most serious count, under the state’s sentencing guidelines, but prosecutors said they would seek a longer term.
Outside the courthouse, dozens of people who had gathered erupted in cheers, hugs and tears of joy as the verdicts were read. Two men jumped up and down holding one another’s shoulders. Other people then began jumping up and down in place and chanting “Guilty, guilty, guilty!”
They chanted “Say his name! Daunte Wright.” Some held yellow signs that said “guilty” in large block letters.
Verdict Followed Monday’s Closing Arguments
Closing arguments from both sides began Monday morning. Proceedings started with the state giving their side. Their main goal was to prove to the jury that Kim Potter’s actions on April 11 were reckless and negligent, and that she deserves to be held accountable to some degree.
Prosecutor Erin Eldridge opened up by tapping into the jury’s emotion by saying Potter’s two sons will be home for Christmas this weekend. Wright will not be.
Then she drove home the argument that Potter caused this death by acting reckless.
“This was no oopsie, this not putting the wrong date on a check, this was not entering the wrong password, this was a colossal screw-up, a blunder of epic proportions, it was precisely the thing she was warned about for years, it was irreversible and it was fatal,” Eldridge said.
The prosecution also walked the jury through Potter’s camera footage, frame by frame, trying to prove that Potter could not see her partner on the other side of Wright’s car, and therefore wouldn’t know whether or not he was in danger. The prosecution also argued that Potter placed her two police partners in danger by shooting into the vehicle.
Then the defense began their closing arguments. Potter’s attorney Earl Gray painted the picture of a chaotic situation, a struggle, where every decision happened in a matter of seconds.
The defense argued that chaotic struggle was caused by Wright.
“I could stop right here. Because if you presume, which you have to do, if you presume that she did not cause the death, which you have to have the presumption of innocence, did they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she caused this death? No. Daunte Wright caused his own death, unfortunately. Those are the cold hard facts of the evidence,” Gray said.
The defense also argued that Minnesota law states that a person must be conscience of their recklessness, and Potter was not conscience she was holding a gun, therefore didn’t know she was being reckless.
The prosecution then took their opportunity for a rebuttal.