Kim Potter found guilty in Daunte Wright shooting

By Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0119 GMT (0919 HKT) December 24, 2021
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3:02 p.m. ET, December 23, 2021

Kim Potter sentencing date set for February 2022 

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

(Pool)
(Pool)

Kim Potter, a former police officer who yelled "Taser" before fatally shooting Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, will be sentenced on Feb. 18, 2022 at 10 a.m. ET (9 a.m. local time), according to Judge Regina Chu.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed on the date after a brief back and forth.

Initially, defense attorneys requested for Potter to be released on $100,000 bail, but Judge Chu denied the request stating, "I cannot treat this case any differently than any other case."

The former Brooklyn Center police officer was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.

Chu said she would be ordering a Presentence Investigation and Report.

CNN's Brad Parks contributed reporting to this post.

2:51 p.m. ET, December 23, 2021

Judge denies defense attorney's request for Potter to be released before sentencing

(Pool)
(Pool)

Judge Regina Chu denied a request by Kim Potter's defense attorney, Earl Gray, to let Potter go home before she is sentenced.

Gray told the judge that Potter is a devout Catholic, arguing:

“She has deep roots in the community, and her family’s here, and there’s no evidence that she would flee. So, we respectfully ask you to change your mind as to whether she needs to be incarcerated right now.”

Judge Chu denied the request.

"I am going to require that she be taken into custody and held without bail... I cannot treat this case any differently than any other case," she said.

Chu ordered Potter to be remanded without bail until her sentencing on Feb. 18.

2:45 p.m. ET, December 23, 2021

Judge praises jury in Potter trial: "You did your duty"

After reading aloud the verdict in the Kim Potter trial, Hennepin County Fourth Circuit Judge Regina Chu reiterated that the 12 jury members served heroically in their duty.

The jury found Potter was guilty of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter charges for fatally shooting Daunte Wright during a traffic-stop-turned-arrest on April 11.

"You said 'yes' even though we are in a pandemic with Omicron spreading in our community. You said 'yes' even though you had concerns about serving, given the nature of the case. You said 'yes' even though you knew you would be sequestered during deliberations and away from your loved ones. And you said 'yes' even though there was a chance that this case could have lasted past Christmas. You were willing to sacrifice much because you believed in our justice system," Chu said.

Chu said she was "proud" of the jury.

"And then you went into deliberations and each of you brought with you your common sense, individual perceptions, and life experiences, and you came to an agreement on the verdicts. You did your duty. I'm so proud of you. You should be proud of yourselves. Without civic-minded citizens like you, our system of justice could not function. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifices. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and may the peace and beauty of the season be yours throughout the year," Chu continued.

2:39 p.m. ET, December 23, 2021

Kim Potter found guilty on both charges

From CNN's Brad Parks

Kim Potter has been found guilty of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter charges for fatally shooting Daunte Wright during a traffic-stop-turned-arrest on April 11, 2021.

Jurors deliberated for about 27 hours over the course of four days.

Potter, 49, had pleaded not guilty to the charges. She took the stand and testified before the jury, breaking down in tears as she recounted the shooting, eventually apologizing and insisting she "didn't want to hurt anybody." During her emotional testimony, Potter said she remembered "yelling 'Taser, Taser, Taser,' and nothing happened, and then he told me I shot him." 

The maximum penalty for first-degree manslaughter predicated on reckless use/ handling of a firearm is 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine. However, since Potter has no criminal history, Minnesota sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence roughly between 6 and 8.5 years in prison. 

In October, prosecutors informed the court they intend to seek a more severe penalty than state guidelines call for when Potter is sentenced, claiming that she abused her position of authority and that her conduct caused "greater-than-normal danger to the safety of other people."

If Judge Chu agrees that aggravating factors were present, Potter could receive a lengthier prison sentence than the recommendations set out, but not more than the legal maximum. Under Minnesota law Potter will have to serve two-thirds of her sentence in prison. With good behavior, she will be eligible for supervised release for the other third.

3:12 p.m. ET, December 23, 2021

These are the 4 main differences between Kim Potter's Taser and handgun, according to a special agent

From CNN's Kim Berryman, Josh Campbell, Eric Levenson and Amir Vera

This image provided by the prosecution shows Officer Kim Potter's duty belt. Prosecutors walked jurors through the differences between Potter's handgun and her Taser on Monday, December 13.
This image provided by the prosecution shows Officer Kim Potter's duty belt. Prosecutors walked jurors through the differences between Potter's handgun and her Taser on Monday, December 13. (Pool/Court TV/AP/FILE)

Former police officer Kim Potter testified that she mistook her Taser for a gun when she fatally shot Daunte Wright in April – a distinction that is central to her case.

During his testimony on Dec. 13, Special agent Sam McGinnis of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension described the Taser and gun differences in appearance, weight and positioning on Potter's utility belt. McGinnis is a state investigative agent responsible for reviewing police shootings.

Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter for killing Wright, a 20-year-old Black man. Potter has pleaded not guilty.

Here are the main differences:

  • Appearance: A Taser is yellow and the firearm is black, McGinnis said, adding that the Taser also has a stock body compared to the Glock handgun. The grip of the Taser is also shorter and wider, he said.
  • Weight: Potter's Glock handgun weighed 2.11 pounds, McGinnis said, compared to her Taser that weighed less than a pound. McGinnis said this meant the Glock with the ammo weighed over twice as much as the taser.
  • Operation: McGinnis said the way the weapons are fired is also different. The gun's trigger is curved while the Taser trigger is flat. "The Taser has an external, I guess, 'on' (and) 'off' switch safety. The Glock does not," he said.
  • Position: According to photos McGinnis took of Potter after the shooting, he testified that she kept her firearm and Taser on opposite sides of her body. "Her firearm was on her dominant side, which you'd have to use your right hand to draw," he said, noting her holster had a snap retention system to keep the gun in its holster. The Taser on the left side required her to push a lever with her left hand to get it out, he said.

Minutes before recounting the shooting, Potter testified she had received a new Taser model days before the shooting.

Potter was issued the new Taser on March 26, she said. She shot Wright on April 11. She told jurors she had never deployed the device while on duty.

"I would take my Taser out on rare occasions, but I don't believe I ever deployed it," she said.

Potter testified she had received no "weapons confusion" training. The subject occasionally came up at training.

2:14 p.m. ET, December 23, 2021

Only 12 jurors were chosen to deliberate. Here's what we know about the full panel.

From CNN's Brad Parks

A "trial outcome" has been reached in the Kim Potter case.

There were 14 jurors on the panel, including two alternates, who listened to the testimony throughout the Kimberly Potter trial, but only 12 jurors deliberated.

While we wait to hear more about the outcome, here's what we know about them:

Initial questionnaire: Prospective jurors in the trial were sent a 15-page questionnaire, which asked about their knowledge of the case, media habits, impressions of Potter and Wright, Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter, and if they participated in and demonstrations or marches relating to policing that took place in the Twin Cities area in the last two years. 

The responses to the individual questionnaires have not been made public, but many of the jurors’ answers were discussed in open court during jury selection.

Jury selection pool: At least 453 prospective jurors were summoned for jury selection in the trial, according to Hennepin County District Court Communications Specialist Matt Lehman. Nearly 130 more prospective jurors were summoned for Potter's trial than were called earlier in the year for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. During four days of jury selection, Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu and attorneys questioned over 30 prospective jurors.

The jurors: There are 14 jurors on the panel, including two alternates, seven men and seven women were selected. The jury is comprised of seven White men, four White women, two Asian women, and one Black woman. No Black men were selected for the jury.

Previous knowledge of the case: During jury selection, almost all of the jurors selected told the court they had heard about some aspects of Wright's death and most told the court that they had seen clips of body camera video showing the fatal shooting.

1:52 p.m. ET, December 23, 2021

Officers' body camera and patrol car footage show what happened during the fatal traffic stop

From CNN's Carma Hassan, Amir Vera, Holly Yan and Brad Parks

Body camera and patrol car footage shown during the trial show what happened during the traffic stop where Daunte Wright was shot and killed.

In the footage, Potter can be heard saying, "I'll tase ya," before shooting Wright. "I just shot him. I grabbed the wrong f--king gun," Potter said. "I shot him. Oh my God."

"Oh my God," Potter added while crying. Potter continued to yell, "Oh my God," numerous times while lying face down on the grass, according to body camera footage.

What lead up to the shooting: Officer Anthony Luckey, the trainee officer working with Potter, testified that while they were on patrol he encountered Wright's vehicle and observed the white Buick had its right blinker on in the left turning lane. He then immediately ran the registration of the license plate, which had expired registration tabs on the plate.

Luckey also told prosecutors he saw "there was an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror as well," which is a "common violation of the law."

When he pulled over Wright, Luckey said he noticed marijuana residue in the vehicle and smelled marijuana odor. He noted that his interaction with Wright was respectful, and he had no reason to believe he had a weapon.

When he returned to his squad car, Luckey ran Wright's information through the system, and it showed Wright had an outstanding warrant for a "gross misdemeanor weapons charge" and an "order of protection for a female."

At some point, another officer, Sgt. Mychal Johnson, arrived and Luckey told him his plan to take Wright out of the vehicle and arrest him. He then returned to Wright's vehicle and began placing him under arrest.

As Luckey struggled to put handcuffs on Wright, Potter was approaching and attempting to grab his arm. Wright was able to get away and back into the vehicle, Luckey said.

At that point, Potter pulled out her firearm and shot him – later saying she instead meant to use her Taser.

Read more about the video here.

1:37 p.m. ET, December 23, 2021

The last arguments each side gave before the jury started deliberating

From CNN's Mike Hayes

Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge, center, delivers closing arguments on December 20, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge, center, delivers closing arguments on December 20, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV/AP/Pool)

Kim Potter faces first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter charges for fatally shooting Daunte Wright during a traffic-stop-turned-arrest on April 11, 2021. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

After eight days of testimony and 33 witnesses, attorneys on both sides laid out their case ahead of jury deliberations. Here's what they said:

Prosecution

Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Erin Eldridge told jurors in her closing argument that the case is "very simple," it's about the "reckless handling of a firearm" and "culpable negligence" by Potter.

Eldridge told the jury that the defense will try to convince them that Wright is "to blame" for what happened to him on April 11. "We're here because of the defendant's actions, not Daunte Wright," she continued.

Eldridge said that they would not be here if Potter "followed her training...paid attention...and considered the risk," before shooting Wright.

The prosecutor said that Potter's actions were unreasonable because a "reasonable person" knows "you don't blindly pull your weapon, pull the trigger, without being aware of the risk."

She added that "an accident is still a crime" if the defendant's actions are reckless or culpably negligent.

Defense

Defense attorney Earl Gray argued that Potter had the right to use deadly force. He claimed that her actions shouldn't be considered reckless because she "didn't know she had a gun."

He pointed the blame at Daunte Wright who, Gray said, "took it upon himself to flee" and "purposely" left the scene after he was shot when he tried to drive away.

Gray said that Potter made "a mistake" when she shot Daunte Wright and "a mistake is not a crime," pointing to to the "character" witnesses that the defense called that have "known Potter for years" and "think the world of her." He said that his client is a "peaceful person" and "not a bully."

1:22 p.m. ET, December 23, 2021

These are the charges the jury was weighing

From CNN's Brad Parks

Kim Potter faces first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter charges for fatally shooting Daunte Wright during a traffic-stop-turned-arrest on April 11, 2021. In body camera footage of the incident, Potter, can be heard yelling “Taser” repeatedly before she shoots Wright.

Potter was originally charged with second-degree manslaughter in April. Prosecutors added a first-degree manslaughter charge in early September. Potter has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Count 1: First-Degree Manslaughter Predicated on Reckless Use/Handling of a Firearm
Maximum penalty: 15 years and/or $30,000 fine
Count 2: Second-Degree Manslaughter
Maximum penalty: 10 years and/or $20,000 fine

While the maximum penalty for first-degree manslaughter is 15 years in prison, since Potter has no criminal history, Minnesota sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence roughly between 6 to 8.5 years in prison. For the second-degree manslaughter charge, the guidelines recommend between 3.5 to nearly 5 years in prison.

In October, prosecutors informed the court they intend to seek a more severe penalty than state guidelines call for when Potter is sentenced, claiming that she abused her position of authority and that her conduct caused "greater-than-normal danger to the safety of other people."

If Potter is convicted on both counts, Judge Regina Chu will impose sentence on the most severe charge at a later date.