MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Kim Potter's defense team started calling witnesses on Thursday. The former Brooklyn Center officer is charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright.
Potter did not take the stand on Thursday, but confirmed with Judge Regina Chu that she still intends to testify.
The defense's first witness was Steve Ijames, a use-of-force expert and police trainer with more than four decades of law enforcement experience. He evaluated the case for whether the use of a Taser would have been appropriate, and found that it was.
Then, after the officer on the other side of Wright's car testified last week he was in danger during the stop, the defense asked Ijames for his opinion on the use of deadly force.
"As an officer assessing the appropriateness of deadly force, an officer half-in and half-out of a vehicle that is about to be put into drive with the door open would certainly meet that standard of being in immediate danger of death or serious physical injury," he said.
The opinion, however, came with a caveat: Potter would have had to know her fellow officer was in danger to make the use of deadly force acceptable. Ijames said he doesn't know if she was aware of that.
After lunch, former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon took the stand, and testified in his viewing of only some of the videos, he saw no violation of policy, procedure, or law. The day ended with a string of witnesses who know Potter well, and spoke of her being "peaceful" and "law-abiding."
The defense has two witnesses remaining, one of whom is expected to be Potter.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The prosecution in the Kim Potter trial rested its case Thursday morning. Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April, is expected to testify on Friday.
What follows are updates from throughout Thursday's court proceedings, with the newest developments first:
UPDATE (3:10 p.m.): Testimony for the defense continues after court takes a lunch break. The defense calls Timothy Gannon, former Brooklyn Center Police Chief, to the stand.
Shortly after the April 11 shooting, Gannon called the incident "accidental," and said Potter intended to use her Taser. He resigned soon after.
During his testimony, Gannon said he resigned due to "political pressures."
"One of the reasons I was required or requested to leave the agency was because I would not immediately fire Kim Potter," Gannon said.
Gannon called Potter a "fine officer," highlighting her time on the Brooklyn Center Police's Domestic Abuse Response Team, Law Enforcement Memorial Association, and time as a Field Training Officer.
Gannon said he "saw no violation of [department] policy, procedure or law" when he watched video of the incident. He said he formed his opinion on reasonable use of deadly force only from squad car video, but he added that he had not reviewed Sgt. Johnson's body camera video.
On cross-examination, the prosecution asks if Gannon would lie under oath, and Gannon says there's a reason he's an ex-chief: because he would not lie for anyone.
After Gannon steps down, the defense called Officer Colleen Fricke, the police officer who stayed with Kim Potter following the shooting. Fricke said Potter was a "good officer," but when she says that Potter is "remarkable," the prosecution objects and Chu sustains, as character witnesses are not permitted to speak beyond the scope of Potter's truthfulness, peacefulness, and law-abiding nature. Chu tells the jury to disregard Fricke's statement.
Fricke tears up when recounting the moment she walked into the room Potter was sitting in after the shooting, describing her as curled up in a corner and crying.
During cross-examination, the prosecution asks Fricke to confirm that she and Potter were friends beyond their working relationship. Under questioning, Fricke also adds that Potter asked her to take off her body camera, and she did so when the two of them were in the room together.
The defense then calls Thomas Hall, a 23-year-old Army veteran, who spent most of his childhood at Potter's home. Hall described Potter as a "second mother."After a quick 5-minute testimony, Hall steps down.
Afterwards, the defense calls Frank Roth, Potter's former supervisor, who said Potter was "extremely peaceful" both in his personal and trained opinion. Next, Brooklyn Center police officer Sam Smith took the stand, who added that Potter was "law-abiding."
Smith is excused, and Chu dismisses the jury for the day.
Potter is still set to testify in her own defense.
UPDATE (12:30 p.m.): The defense's first witness, Stephen Ijames, was cross-examined by the prosecution asking about his assertion that an arrest warrant is a "mandate."
"An officer, in making that arrest, could also be derelict in duty in using unreasonable force?" prosecutor Frank asked. "Yes, sir," Ijames said.
Ijames testified that he did not see Wright assaulting any officers in the bodycam footage.
In a redirect, defense attorney Paul Engh asked Ijames what would've happened to officers Johnson and Luckey if Wright had put the car in reverse, a question the state objected to, which Judge Chu sustained.
Ijames said that his opinion of deadly force being justified was based on a hypothetical situation, not the facts of this particular case.
With Ijames excused from the witness stand, Judge Chu called for a lunch break, with court to resume around 1:30 p.m.
UPDATE (12 p.m.): Ijames testified to what the officers may have been thinking as they learned Daunte Wright had a warrant out for his arrest.
"We teach officers to act on reasonable appearance, so ii I find a person on a stop to have a weapons charge or a gun warrant, it doesn't mean they have a gun, it means they very likely could have a gun," Ijames said.
Ijames also directly contradicted testimony from the state's use-of-force expert Seth Stoughton, who testified Wednesday that because police knew who Wright was and where he lived, they should have just let him go.
"Police officers enforce the law. The order from a judge in my experience is the highest order we operate under, and if a court order a warrant from a judge says that person is subject to arrest, they will be arrested ... and there is consequences if you don't," Ijames said.
The prosecution cross-examined Ijames, working to establish that using force on Wright created a collateral danger since he was behind the wheel of a car and Potter should have considered that. They also said that Ijames' report on Potter's use of force did not include the phrase "objectively reasonable officer," and suggested he signed off on the report without having access to records and videos of the incident.
Ijames testified during cross-examination that Potter's single-trigger pull (which would connect with Taser training, versus multiple trigger pulls for firearm training) could indicate that she did not perceive a need to use deadly force.
Attorneyh Frank asked Ijames if it was his opinion that Wright was not in a position to operate the motor vehicle when Potter issued Taser warnings.
"He was in a position to operate it, he was not operating it at the time," Ijames said.
UPDATE (10:40 a.m.): Ijames testified that when a suspect tries to escape an arrest, "it changes everything."
Ijames, who testified that he is not being paid to review the case, said that he has decades of law enforcement experience after graduating from the FBI training academy. He's worked as a patrol officer, detective and an assistant police chief. He also said that he just underwent open-heart surgery last week.
Among the presentations Ijames said he's made was a program to teach Taser process to officers. He testified that officers approach encounters differently if they have "objective" evidence that "a gun could be in play." The defense asked if the officers had an obligation to arrest Wright on April 11.
"Absolutely," he says. "A mandate."
The defense asked Ijames the difference between body camera footage and what an officer would see during an incident. Ijames replied, "The video records exactly what's happening without any of the processes human beings go through," such as physiological responses to stress.
The defense asked what would have happened to Wright's ability to drive the car if Potter had, in fact, Tasered him. Ijames said he believes it would've been unlikely Wright was able to put the car in gear and drive it. Even so, Ijames pointed to a case where an officer in his department recently had to retire due to disability after being dragged by a vehicle, which the prosecution objected to. The judge told the jury to disregard that answer.
Ijames said that he thought Potter's intended use of a Taser would have been consistent with police training, and that an officer potentially being dragged by a vehicle would justify deadly force.
At this point, roughly around 10:30 a.m., Judge Chu called for a short morning break.
UPDATE (9:40 a.m.): The defense began calling witnesses to testify, beginning not with Potter herself, as was widely speculated. Instead, they called Stephen Ijames to the stand to begin.
This followed more than a half hour of hashing out multiple issues between the two legal teams. After Judge Chu denied the defense's request for an acquittal, she said she would allow the defense to call an expert to testify on use-of-force, reasoning that "there really are no surprises on what the expert's going to say."
The defense also asked the judge to allow evidence showing the date that Wright's mother was convicted of a drug charge, to which the state objected, saying it had "nothing to do with this case." Chu said that the defense had the opportunity to bring up the date of the conviction when they cross-examined her and failed to do so, and denied entering that into evidence.
The prosecution argued again against using the testimony of Tim Gannon, saying the defense team has shown "a pattern of flouting the court's orders and the rules and trying to litigate by surprise." Chu again said she would allow the defense expert's testimony: "The facts of the case are really not in dispute."
Before calling the jury back into the courtroom for the first witness of the day, Chu asked Potter if she still wished to testify in her own behalf, and Potter said she did. Chu asked if she needed any more time to consider the decision and Potter said she did not. With that, the jury returned to the courtroom to hear Ijames' testimony.
UPDATE (9 a.m.): The prosecution in the Kim Potter trial has rested its case Thursday. The defense then asked the judge to dismiss both counts against Potter, but the judge denied that motion.
The former Brooklyn Center police officer could testify as soon as today.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The prosecution in the Kim Potter trial is expected to rest its case Thursday.
Potter, the former Brooklyn Center police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April, is expected to testify once the defense begins its case. Her testimony could happen as soon as Thursday.
Defense attorney Joe Tamburino, who is not affiliated with the case, said Potter's testimony could ultimately decide the case.
"The bottom line on these criminal cases is the following: When the defendant testifies, the whole case is about the defendant," he said. "If that jury believes the defendant, in this case Ms. Potter, she wins. If they don't believe her, then she'll be convicted."
Potter is charged with manslaughter in Wright's death. She says she meant to use her Taser, not her gun.
The prosecution's key witness, use-of-force expert Seth Stoughton, testified Wednesday that even if Potter had meant to use her Taser, that would have been "unreasonable." He said a reasonable officer in her position "would not have concluded that there was an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm, and thus the use of force was excessive."
Daunte Wright's father, Arbuey Wright, offered "spark of life" testimony Wednesday.
"To see him as a father, it was like, I was so happy for him, because he was so happy," Arbuey Wright said. "He was so happy about Junior. It was my chance to be a grandfather."
During jury selection, Judge Regina Chu told jurors she expected to finish the trial before Christmas Eve.
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