Former Officer Kim Potter found Guilty of Manslaughter; Former police officer Kim Potter will be given a sentence early next year after a jury in Minnesota found her liable on Thursday for first- and second-degree manslaughter in the deadly shooting of Daunte Wright.
Potter, who is white, shot and killed 20-year-old Wright, who was black, in an attempt to arrest him during a traffic stop on April 11 in Brooklyn Center in a suburb of Minneapolis.
She and a junior officer said they stopped Wright because he had an indicator on in the wrong diversion lane, outdated tags, and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. They tried to take him into custody after finding a warrant for his arrest and an order of protection against him. During the scuffle, Potter, 49, shot Wright with her handgun while repeatedly saying “Taser”.
The incident happened during the murder trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd a few miles from the courthouse. The death of Wright led to days of protest and theft in Brooklyn Center and triggered nationwide tensions over police violence in the US. Like Chauvin, Potter was sent directly to jail to wait for her verdict after the jury reached a decision after 72 hours of considerations. Hennepin County District Court Judge Regina Chu refused an appeal from the defense lawyer of Potter to bail her until sentencing which is set for Feb. 18, 2022.
Prison time Faced by Kim Potter
The first-degree manslaughter offense has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine. The second-degree offense has a maximum sentence of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine. Potter will just be sentenced on the gravest charge.
For someone with no criminal history, the theoretical sentence for first-degree manslaughter in Minnesota is about six to eight and a half years considering the guidelines of the state. In Minnesota, it is supposed that someone with appropriate conduct will serve two-thirds of their sentence in jail and one-third on special parole.
Consideration of the Judge in Potter’s Sentence
To decide the sentence of Potter, Chu will presumably consider arguments from both sides, victim impression statements, and whether Potter makes a statement that takes liability or shows her guilt during the hearing.
Prosecutors said Potter should undergo stern sentence due to two antagonizing factors: she misused her position of power and “caused a greater than normal danger” to the security of other people in the vicinity, including the passenger in Wright’s vehicle, two officers present there and the civilians on a crowded street.
In the meantime, Potter’s lawyer Paul Engh said he will request for a “dispositional departure” from sentencing guidelines, which means he will ask the judge to keep the sentence and let Potter be put on trial, home custody or serve her sentence in a local jail instead of prison.
Police Seldomly Prosecuted for On-Duty Shootings
Law enforcement officers mortally shoot about 1000 people every year but arrests and trials are rare in fatal shootings partly because officers are able to use force to protect themselves. According to Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University criminology professor who keeps track of police abuse, “Almost all” police shootings are deemed to be justified.
They have fatally wounded more than 6300 people since 2015 according to a database from the Washington Post created after the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. During that time, Stinson found 91 police personnel were arrested on manslaughter or murder charges from an on-duty shooting. Since 2005, seven officers have been tried for murder, 37 tried for lesser crimes and 53 were not tried. Meanwhile, 45 more criminal cases are proceeding.
Similar Cases in Minnesota
Earlier this year, Judge Peter Cahill pronounced the verdict of Chauvin sentencing him to 22 and a half years for second-degree murder in Floyd’s death. The tentative sentence was 12 and a half years but Cahill discovered disturbing factors like Chauvin misusing his position of power, treating Floyd with atrocity, and was aware that kneeling on his neck was fatal and several kids saw the crime.
In October Judge Katheryn Quaintance resentenced former Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor to four years and nine months prison sentence for second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of Justine Damond Ruszczyk in 2017. Quaintance sentenced Noor, whose murder sentence was overturned, to a sentence at the top of the guidelines’ range because he shot “across the nose” of his mate and jeopardized others. He did not face a stricter sentence because prosecutors did not demand an “upward departure” from the sentencing guidelines.