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Kim Potter Trial, Dec. 20: Jury Ends First Day Of Deliberations Without Verdict

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Both sides made their closing arguments in the Kim Potter trial Monday, and the jury ended its first day of deliberations without reaching a verdict.

The former Brooklyn Center police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright in April is charged with manslaughter. She has said she meant to use her Taser instead of her handgun.

The jury deliberated for about 5.5 hours Monday. They will remain sequestered until the verdict is reached. Deliberations will resume Tuesday morning.

Jurors heard Monday morning the prosecution's closing arguments, the defense's closing arguments and the prosecution's rebuttal.

"This will no little oopsie. This was not putting a wrong date on a check. This was not entering the wrong password somewhere," prosecutor Erin Eldridge said. "This was a colossal screw up. A blunder of epic proportions."

In his closing argument, Potter's attorney Earl Gray said Wright would be alive if he hadn't broken away from the officers trying to escape.

"Within seconds, [Wright] all a sudden breaks away. That's the cause, ladies and gentlemen of the jury," Gray said. "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."

The defense also addressed the word "reckless" from the manslaughter charge.

"How could you recklessly handle [a gun] if you don't know you have it? And there's no evidence that she knew," Gray said.

The state insisted that Wright was not to blame for his own demise.

"Daunte Wright is not on trial. He's not the reason we're here today," Eldridge said. "So whether or not you agree with his decision to flee is not what this case is about."

Prosecutors said the case is about Potter and her actions -- even if it was a mistake, and even if she didn't mean it.

"Accidents can still be crimes if they occur as the result of recklessness or culpable negligence. You're not gonna find the word 'accident' or 'mistake' or 'error' anywhere in your jury instructions, because it's not a defense to the crimes charged," Eldridge said.

Potter's defense simply disagreed.

"[Potter] made a mistake, and my gosh, a mistake is not a crime," Gray said. "It just isn't. It just isn't in our freedom-loving country."

Closing arguments followed Potter's testimony last week, when she emotionally expressed remorse. Eldridge told the jury their sympathy has no place in the deliberation room.

"Good people can commit crimes. Police officers can commit crimes, too," Eldridge said. "And just because she didn't kill people for the first 25 years of her career does not mean that no crime occurred on April 11."

Soon after the jury left the courtroom, the defense moved for a mistrial, protesting to Judge Regina Chu that the state's rebuttal was inappropriate. The judge denied the motion, and the trial will continue.

In the courtroom again Monday were Potter's husband and two other family members. Wright's parents were also both inside.

Below are previous updates, beginning with the latest.

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UPDATE (6 p.m.):The jury ended it's first day of deliberations without reaching a verdict. Jurors will remain fully sequestered throughout the process.

UPDATE (12:45 p.m.): The jury in the Kim Potter trial has entered deliberations.

Before Judge Regina Chu gave the jurors their final instructions and sent them to deliberate, the state made its rebuttal argument.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank told the jury to rely on "the most important evidence of all: Ms. Potter's own actions and words."

Frank said defense's argument that Wright caused his own death was "stunning" and "factually wrong and legally wrong," citing the bodycam video in which Potter said she pulled the wrong gun.

Frank asserted the state did not have to prove Potter knew she had a gun in her hand, as the defense implied

"Her conduct created a risk that she would use the wrong weapon," Frank said. "Her conduct in going to her gun holster, drawing it and pointing it and pulling the trigger."

Frank also told the jury "there simply is no evidence" that a reasonable officer would have believed deadly force was necessary during the attempt to arrest Wright.

After the jury left to deliberate, the defense moved for a mistrial, objecting to the content of the state's rebuttal. Chu denied the motion.

UPDATE (11:50 a.m.): During the defense's closing argument, attorney Earl Gray argued that "Daunte Wright caused his own death, unfortunately."

Gray argued the jury must find his client, Kim Potter, not guilty, because Wright's actions during the traffic stop were a "superseding cause" of death that makes Potter not criminally liable.

He also argued that Potter is innocent of the first-degree manslaughter charge, because of the element of committing a "conscious or intentional act."

"How could she have recklessly handled a firearm if she didn't even know she had one?" Gray said.

Potter's defense attorney again brought up the concept of "action error," which a defense expert testified was doing one thing when meaning to do another. He reiterated the defense's assertion that Potter killing Wright was a mistake.

"A mistake is not a crime," Gray said. "In the walk of life, nobody's perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. Some of those mistakes are small mistakes, but some of them are very serious."

Gray told the jury that this is "a very emotional case, but you have to look at the law and evidence."

"[The state] failed in every element," he continued. "Miserably failed. and I hope that you come to the fair conclusion of not guilty, based on the evidence."

UPDATE (10:35 a.m.): During the state's closing argument, Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge told the jury the Kim Potter trial is about "the defendant's actions, not Daunte Wright's."

The state replayed parts of bodycam footage of the shooting for the jury, and ran through every element of the manslaughter charges against Potter.

The first-degree manslaughter charge includes the element that a death must have been caused by the "reckless handling or use of a firearm."

"She drew a deadly weapon, she aimed it, she pointed it at Daunte Wright's chest and she fired," Eldridge said.

Eldridge attacked the defense's argument that Potter feared for her fellow officer's life, prompting her to draw what she says she thought was her Taser.

"The defendant didn't save Sgt. Johnson's life," Eldridge said. "If anybody saved Sgt. Johnson's life, it was Daunte Wright when he took a bullet to the chest."

The prosecution also went after the defense's repeated assertion that Potter made a mistake that did not amount to a crime.

"An accidental killing is still a crime if the defendant's actions are reckless or culpably negligent," Eldridge said. "Human nature did not kill Daunte Wright. The defendant did."

"It was a tragedy of her own making. And it's not just a tragedy, it's manslaughter," Eldridge continued. "She chose right instead of left. She chose wrong instead of right. She chose her gun and she shot and killed Daunte Wright."

UPDATE (9:20 a.m.): After Judge Regina Chu gave the jury their instructions, Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge has begun the state's closing argument.

"The defendant told you her sons will be home for the holidays," Eldridge began. "You know who won't be home for the holidays is Daunte Wright."

READ MORE: 'The Facts Really Aren't Disputed': The Key Points To Be Made In Kim Potter Trial's Closing Arguments

UPDATE (9 a.m.): Potter took the stand on Friday, breaking down during questioning by both the defense and prosecution.

"I remember yelling 'Taser! Taser! Taster!' and nothing happened. And then [Wright] told me I shot him," Potter said as the defense walked her through the shooting.

During the state's cross-examination, Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge questioned Potter about her reaction after the shooting. After Potter earlier testified a fellow officer "had a look of fear on his face" during the scuffle that was "nothing I'd seen before," Eldridge made the point Potter did not check in on that officer after shooting Wright. Nor did she attempt to provide aid to Wright, Eldridge said.

"I'm sorry it happened," Potter said. "I didn't want to hurt anybody."

After closing arguments, Potter's fate will be in the hands of the jury. They will be sequestered during deliberations. Criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino, who is unaffiliated with the Potter trial, said he believes there will be a verdict before the holiday weekend.

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