A Minnesota jury has reached a guilty verdict on both charges in the case of Kim Potter, a White former police officer who fatally shot Black motorist Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April.
Potter, 49, was convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Wright, who attempted to flee during the stop. Potter, who resigned from the Brooklyn Center police force after the shooting, maintained that she intended to reach for her Taser instead of her gun.
State guidelines for the more serious charge call for a 7-year sentence. She was taken from the courtroom in handcuffs and was ordered held without bond until sentencing.
The jury CBS Minnesota reported. They returned Thursday afternoon to announce the verdict.after hearing about a week and a half of testimony in the case. 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,
Potter gave emotional, saying she "didn't want to hurt anybody" and that she was "sorry it happened." But the state argued that mistakenly firing her gun instead of her Taser was not a defense.
"This was no little oopsie. This was not putting a wrong date on a check. This was not entering the wrong password somewhere," said prosecutor Erin Eldridge, an assistant attorney general, in her"This was a colossal screw-up. A blunder of epic proportions."
The defense argued that Wright's attempt to flee officers during the traffic stop was a factor in his death.
"Within seconds, [Wright] all of a sudden breaks away. That's the cause, ladies and gentlemen of the jury," said Potter's attorney Earl Gray. "Did they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she caused this death? No. Daunte Wright caused his own death, unfortunately. But those are the cold, hard facts."
CBS Minnesota reports the jury of six men and six women heard from 25 witnesses for the prosecution and eight who testified for the defense.
Judge Chu ruled against a defense motion for a mistrial after the state's rebuttal.
The April 11 shooting in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, occurred during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of the 2020 murder of George Floyd. Floyd's death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Brooklyn Center saw unrest for days after Wright's death.
Daunte Wright's mother says she was feeling "every single emotion that you can imagine"
In a press conference after the verdict, Daunte Wright's mother, Katie Bryant, said she experienced "every single emotion that you can imagine" when she heard the word "guilty."
"Now we've been able to process it," Bryant said. She thanked the prosecutors and the community for their support "in this long fight for accountability."
When asked what they thought of Potter taking the stand in her own defense last week, Bryant declined to answer. However Aubrey Wright, Daunte's father, said, "Well, the truth be told, what do I think? I want to thank her."
At the time of sentencing, the Wright family will be able to make a victim impact statement for the judge to consider.
Attorney General Keith Ellison says he'll seek a "fair" sentence
Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general, also spoke outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced. He said the guilty verdict brings "a degree of accountability." He expressed condolences for the family of Daunte Wright, saying the young man had his whole life in front of him.
He also reflected on Potter, whom he said has gone from a "esteemed" member of the community as a law enforcement officer to being convicted of a serious crime.
In a message to other members of the law enforcement community, Ellison said, "When a member of your profession is held accountable it does not diminish you."
When asked what kind of sentence the prosecutors will recommend, Ellison gave no hints, just saying it'd be "a fair one."
Emotions inside and outside the courtroom during the verdict
While the judge read the verdict, Potter looked on without showing visible emotion. As the judge polled each of the jurors, a maskless Potter appeared to look directly at each of them.
The parents of Wright, Katie Bryant and Arbuey Wright, were also present in the courtroom. As the first verdict was read, Bryant began sobbing while Arbuey Wright comforted her. The weight of the decision also appeared to impact at least one of the jurors, who was comforted by another before the panel was excused by the judge.
Potter was removed from the courtroom in handcuffs. Her husband could be heard saying he loves her, and she responded, "I love you," before being escorted out a back door by officers.
Prosecutors went over and hugged Wright's parents, and his mother began crying again.
Outside the courthouse, crowds celebrated the verdict. "Say his Name," someone from a bullhorn shouted, and the crowd responded "Daunte Wright!" Others held signs saying "GUILTY," "Justice for Daunte Wright" and "Black Lives Matter."
Wright family attorneys: "The justice system has provided some measure of accountability for the senseless death"
Attorneys for Daunte Wright's family, Benjamin Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms, released a statement after the verdict was announced.
"The family of Daunte Wright is relieved that the justice system has provided some measure of accountability for the senseless death of their son, brother, father and friend," they said.
The statement continued: "From the unnecessary and overreaching tragic traffic stop to the shooting that took his life, that day will remain a traumatic one for this family and yet another example for America of why we desperately need change in policing, training and protocols. If we are ever going to restore the confidence of Black and marginalized Americans in law enforcement, we need to have accountability and a commitment to listening and to creating meaningful change. We must now turn our attention to ensuring that Kim Potter receives the strongest and most just sentence possible. It is also imperative that we focus on the conduct of Brooklyn Center and pinpoint its systemic failures that contributed to Daunte's unlawful death."
Judge praises jury: "You did your duty"
Judge Chu thanked the jury for their service in the midst of the pandemic and ahead of the holiday season, telling them "jurors are the heroes of our judicial system. Well, the 12 of you are heroes in this case."
"You did your duty," Chu told the jurors, adding that she was proud of them.
Potter to be held without bond
Judge Chu has ordered Potter to be held without bond and remanded into custody pending sentencing.
While the defense tried to convince the judge to keep Potter released on her $100,000 bond, the government argued that since she has been convicted of manslaughter, she should be taken into custody.
"I recognize your arguments but I cannot treat this case any differently than any other case," Chu told the defense.
Sentencing has been set for February 18 at 9 a.m.