After four days of deliberations, a Minnesota jury found former police officer Kim Potter guilty of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the April 11th shooting death of Daunte Wright.
Bodycam footage of his arrest showed Wright, who was being detained after a traffic stop due to an outstanding warrant, struggling with police. He managed to evade them got back into the car. He appeared to be attempting flee in his vehicle. Potter could be heard saying, “I’ll tase you,” followed a few seconds later by, “Taser, taser, taser!” Potter then shot Wright with her gun. She immediately said, “Oh, shit, I just shot him.” Officers attempted CPR, but Wright was pronounced dead at the scene.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense seemed to question that Potter had made a terrible mistake in the heat of the confrontation. Based on the Minnesota first degree manslaughter law, I see no way Potter could have been convicted of that crime:
609.20 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE FIRST DEGREE.
Whoever does any of the following is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both:
(1) intentionally causes the death of another person in the heat of passion provoked by such words or acts of another as would provoke a person of ordinary self-control under like circumstances, provided that the crying of a child does not constitute provocation;
(2) violates section 609.224 and causes the death of another or causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense with such force and violence that death of or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable, and murder in the first or second degree was not committed thereby;
(3) intentionally causes the death of another person because the actor is coerced by threats made by someone other than the actor’s coconspirator and which cause the actor reasonably to believe that the act performed by the actor is the only means of preventing imminent death to the actor or another;
(4) proximately causes the death of another, without intent to cause death by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering a controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V; or
(5) causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a violation of section 609.377 (malicious punishment of a child), and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed thereby.
As used in this section, a “person of ordinary self-control” does not include a person under the influence of intoxicants or a controlled substance.
I did not see the trial, and I can register no definitive opinion on the guilty verdict on second degree manslaughter at this time. However, I will say this:
- The episode should have been handled civilly, not as a criminal matter.
- I believe that it was an abuse of prosecutorial discretion and ethics for Potter to have been charged at all, and am quite certain that without the George Floyd Freakout and rioting, she would not have been.
- Not would she have been charged if she were black and had shot a white Daunte Wright.
- I do not think any white officer in Potter’s position could get a fair trial in Minnesota, and the convictions should be reversed on that basis.
- If I were a Minnesota police officer, I would resign immediately. No officer can discharge his or her duties safely and confidently with such a precedent.
- If every officer walked off the job tomorrow, they would be ethically justified.