Juror reveals the 'key turning point' in the Kim Potter trial

Juror reveals the 'key turning point' in the Kim Potter trial
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A juror who spoke to NBC-affiliated KARE 11 on the condition of anonymity told the news station why convicting former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter last Thursday took some 27 hours. Potter, a white woman, was convicted on counts of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter after she shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black father, on Apr. 11, 2021.

It was difficult not to question whether race played a factor in how Potter responded to Wright before killing him. The shooting happened about 10 miles north of the Hennepin County Courthouse, where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was standing trial for murdering George Floyd. Chauvin had kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, killing him as onlookers begged the officer to stop. But the juror in the Potter case said he didn’t believe race was a factor in Potter’s handling of Wright.

“I don’t want to speak for all the jurors, but I think we believed she was a good person and even believed she was a good cop,” the juror said. “No one felt she was intentional in this. It’s ludicrous that some people are assuming we thought she was a racist. That never came up or anything like that. We felt like she was a good person, we felt she made a mistake, and that a mistake does not absolve you from the fact she did commit a crime. Being a good person doesn’t mean you’re above the law.”

At the time of Wright’s death, Potter had been a Brooklyn Center police officer for 26 years. She claimed she was reaching for her Taser when she accidentally grabbed her gun instead. Wright had been pulled over in a traffic stop for expired license plate tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror—a stop Potter said she didn’t want to make, but did because she was in the process of training officer Anthony Luckey. “An air freshener to me is just an equipment violation,” she said, adding that she was advised not to enforce those kinds of infractions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luckey and Potter ultimately stopped Wright and learned he had an active misdemeanor warrant. Potter’s former supervisor, Sgt. Mychal Johnson, testified during the trial that when Luckey tried to arrest Wright, they struggled and Johnson opened Wright’s passenger door in an attempt to prevent him from driving away. Johnson testified that he held Wright’s arm, thinking Luckey or Potter would cuff Wright’s other arm. Instead, Johnson heard someone say, “Taser, Taser,” and dropped Wright’s arm to avoid the Taser’s probes, the sergeant testified. But Potter never used her Taser and instead grabbed a Glock handgun, weighing about 2.11 pounds. Her Taser weighed less than a pound, Sam McGinnis, a special agent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, testified during the trial.

Jurors got to hold both weapons—a pivotal point in the case, the unnamed juror told KARE 11. “The Taser kind of feels like a mouse click whereas the trigger has some trigger draw weight,” he said. “That was a key turning point.”

At that point, the jury had agreed Potter was guilty of second-degree manslaughter, but two jurors weren’t willing to bend to the majority’s will on the higher count. First-degree manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 years and is applicable when a person “intentionally causes the death of another person in the heat of passion,” 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,” according to state statute.

The juror who spoke to KARE 11 said one of the two holdouts was missing language that spelled out that the severe consequence of the act didn’t have to be intentional for it to be first-degree manslaughter.

“One of them asked me, ‘Hey, could I just go have a one-on-one with this other holdout? And let’s just talk it through and work through both of our reasons together and see if we can come to some sort of understanding,’” the juror who witnessed the conversation told KARE. “He was caught up on the language, and she was not. She helped clear up the language for him. She was caught up on the accountability side of things, and he helped clear that up for her. It was kind of interesting that they worked each other out. In the large group discussions, he kept saying, ‘I don’t think she was consciously aware that she was holding a firearm.’ We were like, ‘We get that. We understand. We agree. But you are missing the language where it says or intentional.’”

Before the jurors agreed to their decision, deliberations kept circling the same points, the spotlighted juror told KARE. There were times in deliberations when nearly every juror cried, he said, adding that the group still came to its decision respectfully. He said he plans to attend Potter’s sentencing hearing, which is set for Feb. 18.

“I hope for a lighter sentence. But when you factor in the vehicle that got hit and also the injury Daunte’s passenger sustained, I am of the belief that Kim Potter’s responsible for that harm as well and that should play into her sentence,” the juror said. “It just hurts for me to say that because I do think this was a mistake.”

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