Thursday, December 23, 2021

Kim Potter: Guilty

It took the jury more than three days of deliberation, but they found Brooklyn Center cop Kim Potter guilty of two counts of manslaughter for killing Daunte Wright. 

I think part of it did come down to what I wrote about a few days ago: her testimony didn't add up. I'm not sure if the prosecutors did much to attack her version of things on cross examination, but they definitely went after it in their closing arguments.

One prosecutor went through Potters body camera footage frame by frame, showing her errors. She pointed out that Potter's camera didn't show any look of fear on Sgt. Johnson's face, as Potter claimed.

From the Star Tribune story on Monday, after closing arguments:

After the shooting, Johnson was heard on video footage telling an inconsolable Potter that she had to shoot because he could have been dragged away if Wright had been allowed to flee. [The prosecutors] claimed Johnson "fed" that claim to Potter but that she didn't "bite" when she was distraught in the minutes immediately after Wright's death.

"If anyone saved Sgt. Johnson's life, it was Daunte Wright when he took a bullet to the chest," [the prosecutor] said.

She argued that Potter wasn't justified in using force and told jurors to look at Luckey [the rookie cop] and Sgt. Johnson, neither of whom drew their weapons because both were "using a proportional amount of force. They were just trying to keep him from driving away."

At first, I didn't understand that part about Daunte Wright saving Johnson's life, but finally caught on that the prosecutor was saying that if the bullet hadn't stopped in Wright's body, it would have hit the other cop. (Or Wright's passenger! This is another aspect of the terrible not-guilty verdict in the 2017 Yanez trial: when he killed Philando Castile in 2016, there was a front-seat passenger who could easily have been shot, and the jury didn't even find Yanez guilty of reckless endangerment.)

In today's Star Tribune breaking news story about the Potter verdicts, more of the closing arguments were quoted, and I can see why they had weight with the jury and led to manslaughter convictions, which are based on recklessness and negligence:

[The prosecutor] repeated several times that Potter killed Wright, was trained well to know the difference between her Taser and her gun, that her actions were not a simple mistake and that the other officers were not in physical danger during the stop.

"She was aware of the risk of killing someone with that firearm," [the prosecutor] said. She disregarded that risk."

As for the accidental nature of Potter have a deadly weapon in her hand, as a defense witness contended, the prosecutor said, "This was no little oopsie. This was not putting the wrong date on a check, this was not entering the wrong password somewhere. This was a colossal screw up; a blunder of epic proportions. It was precisely the thing she had been warned about for years and she was trained to prevent it. It was irreversible and it was fatal."

She also cautioned jurors understand that Potter's former colleagues who testified might have been biased toward her because they were fellow members of what they considered to be a "police family."

"How can we ask officers who've known and liked the defendant Kimberly Potter for years, have been a part of her police family for decades, how can we ask them to independently assess what happened on April 11?... I'm sure most Brooklyn Center police officers would have preferred to not have to be here to testify before you. But they did. They had to. But the further away you get from the bias of the close relationship with the defendant … the clearer things become."

A more important relationship, the prosecutor argued, is the one between a police officer and their community they serve.

I know better than to hope that this is a pattern for the future, but I'm glad Kim Potter has been found guilty. 

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