Potter Jurors See Differences Between Pistol and Taser
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Prosecutors in manslaughter trial of Minnesota police officer charged with shooting death of Daunte Wright explained to jurors the differences between his handgun and his Taser on Monday, seeking to raise questions about how an experienced officer might confuse the two.
Wright, 20, was killed on April 11 after being arrested in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center for expiring license plates and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. Kim potter, 49, is charged with manslaughter.
Potter, a 26-year-old police veteran who resigned two days later, said she intended to use her Taser to stop Wright after he pulled away and got back into his car as the police were trying to arrest him on a warrant for a weapons charge. Potter is white and Wright was black. His death, which came while Derek Chauvin was on trial in neighboring Minneapolis on the death of George Floyd, sparked several nights of angry protests at the Brooklyn Center.
The defense called the shooting a horrible mistake, but also claimed that Potter would have had the right to use lethal force on Wright because he could have trained another officer, then Staff Sgt. Mychal Johnson, with his car.
Sam McGinnis, a senior special agent with the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, pointed out that Potter’s duty belt has holsters that require an officer to take deliberate action to release guns. The pistol holster has a snap button, while the Taser holster has a lever. The handgun, which is black, is also twice as heavy as the Yellow Taser, McGinnis said.
The Taser and the pistol have different triggers, handles, and safety mechanisms, McGinnis said. The Taser also has a laser and LED lights that display before it is fired, which he demonstrated to the jury, unlike the handgun, he said.
McGinnis also testified that Potter did not perform a functional test on his Taser at the start of his shift. Although it is the policy of the Brooklyn Center Police Department that officers are supposed to do so, McGinnis admitted during cross-examination that he did not verify the extent to which officers in the department were complying.
Prosecutors asked jurors to handle a Taser, but Judge Regina Chu did not allow it after opposition from Potter’s lawyers. Chu said jurors can do this during deliberations if they choose.
Earlier Monday, Dr Lorren Jackson, assistant medical examiner for Hennepin County, said Potter’s bullet caused injuries to Wright’s heart and lungs and these caused his death. He said that such injuries can only be survived “from a few seconds to a few minutes”.
After Wright was shot, his car took off and collided seconds later with an oncoming car. The injuries from the crash were insignificant in terms of what caused Wright’s death, Jackson said.
Some officers said last week that they were unable to approach Wright’s car immediately after his crash because they weren’t sure it was safe. Prosecutors criticized Potter for not immediately radioing what happened at the traffic stop.
Jackson testified that Wright had cannabinoids, or THC and its metabolites, in his blood while smoking marijuana, but that they failed to consider the cause of his death. He said that Wright’s blood THC metabolite level was “on the high end” of the numbers he sees, but was still within a normal range for people who use marijuana.
Jurors were shown graphic images of Wright’s body at the scene, as the deputy medical examiner found the body on the ground, with medical equipment still attached to the rescue efforts and dried blood from the gunshot wound .
They also saw autopsy photos, which Chu limited after Potter’s lawyers earlier objected to the trial. Wright’s mother, who was present for much of the testimony, was not in court as the autopsy photos were shown.
The state should close its case in the middle of the week.
Separately, prosecutors filed two motions on Monday, including one aimed at limiting the opinion of witnesses who do not testify as experts. It came after Johnson testified last week that Potter’s actions were permitted by state law. Johnson was not testifying as an expert on the use of force by the police.
Prosecutors also asked Chu for permission to question the police about union membership. They wrote that Potter had roles within the union, including as president, which gave him a high level of respect among his colleagues. They want to question the agents about it so that jurors can assess any potential bias towards Potter.
The case is heard by a mostly white jury.
State sentencing guidelines provide for just over seven years in prison for conviction for first degree manslaughter and four years for second degree manslaughter, although prosecutors have said that they were planning to require longer sentences.
Associated Press editors Mohamed Ibrahim in Minneapolis and Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.
Find the full PA coverage of the Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright