Experts: Potter missed chance to explain Taser-gun mix-up

MINNEAPOLIS — The former Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright alternated between tears, statements of regret and clipped, matter-of-fact solutions as she testified at her trial on manslaughter fees within the loss of life of the Black motorist.

But Kim Potter’s testimony on Friday was notably scant on a key component of her protection – that she made a mistake when she drew her handgun as a substitute of her Taser and killed Wright throughout a visitors cease final April in Brooklyn Center.

One legal professional who spoke to The Associated Press stated the protection could have been deliberately obscure on that time, however others stated it appeared to be a missed alternative for Potter to inform jurors how a mix-up may need occurred and what she was considering — one thing jurors have been possible ready to hear.

“I didn’t suppose they pulled sufficient out of Potter as a result of we didn’t get into her thoughts,” stated Marsh Halberg, a Minneapolis protection legal professional who is just not related to the case.

Under questioning from her legal professional Earl Gray, Potter testified that as officers have been combating Wright, she noticed her supervisor, Sgt. Mychal Johnson, leaning into the automotive with “a glance of worry in his face.” As she cried on the stand, she went on to say: “I keep in mind yelling, ‘Taser, Taser, Taser,’ and nothing occurred, after which he instructed me I shot him.” Body digicam video recorded Wright saying, “Ah, he shot me” earlier than the automotive took off.

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“He received her to admit that she noticed worry on Johnson’s face, however didn’t discover that additional,” stated John Baker, a former protection legal professional who’s now instructing aspiring law enforcement officials at St. Cloud State University. “He ought to’ve gone a lot additional and requested her to testify extra on that,” Baker stated.

He added that Gray did not have Potter explain the error, saying: “They didn’t even handle it.”

Mike Brandt, one other Minneapolis legal professional watching the case, stated breaking down the moments surrounding the taking pictures could have been efficient, however the protection “made a tactical resolution that it wasn’t going to be crucial and depart it, maybe, extra obscure if you’ll.”

Brandt stated the purpose of placing Potter, who’s white, on the stand was to humanize her for the jury, one thing he thinks was completed efficiently. Brandt stated Gray did a superb job of utilizing Potter’s phrases to paint an image of a girl who was impressed to grow to be an officer at an early age, who had no complaints in opposition to her and who did not search to transfer up the ranks as a result of she favored engaged on the streets.

While the specialists believed Potter’s tears have been real, they’d blended views on how her feelings may need performed for the jury.

“It was nearly gut-wrenching really to watch, significantly on cross. Her facial expressions seemed like she was actively reliving the trauma of the expertise,” stated Rachel Moran, a professor on the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

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Moran stated it’s laborious not to imagine that Potter is horrified and sorry for what she has completed. But whereas some folks may empathize with Potter, others may take problem with the truth that she wanted comforting after the taking pictures when the main target ought to have been on Wright, Moran stated.

Moran stated the truth that her attorneys didn’t get into Potter’s mindset was “unusual,” saying she believes one of many first questions that ought to’ve been requested was whether or not Potter meant to shoot Wright.

Experts stated Erin Eldridge, the prosecutor who questioned Potter, was typically robust in cross-examination.

Brandt stated Potter got here throughout as too defensive and barely combative when she gave brief solutions to Eldridge, however he stated Eldridge started wanting like a “bully” when Potter started crying. Moran stated Eldridge wasn’t significantly aggressive, however saved “bulldozing” via her cross-examination, whilst Potter had what Moran known as a “seen breakdown.” She stated it is laborious to say how that may play with the jury.

Moran additionally stated that Potter’s rapid response to the taking pictures, which is seen on the police movies, reveals she knew she did one thing horribly flawed and didn’t intend to use her gun. She stated Eldridge was robust in establishing that in her cross-examination.

Notably, Eldridge at one level received Potter to agree that she didn’t plan to use lethal drive — Potter’s attorneys have been arguing that even when this wasn’t a mistake, Potter would have been justified in utilizing lethal drive as a result of she feared Johnson’s life was at risk.

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Baker stated one other spotlight was when Eldridge walked Potter via the physique digicam video and confirmed Potter what she did.

“It was actually damning when she received the video of the freeze body of her along with her hand on what appeared to be her weapon as she was nonetheless standing by and about to are available in,” Baker stated. “I feel she did an ideal job of impeaching her.”

Baker stated if the jurors had begun deliberating shortly after Potter’s testimony, her emotional show may need had extra of an impact. He stated having the weekend between her testimony and shutting arguments provides jurors far.

Legal specialists stated Potter’s testimony wasn’t as robust as they anticipated it to be.

Baker stated the protection spent an excessive amount of time on the justification for the visitors cease, and there wasn’t sufficient concentrate on the moments when she pulled out her gun as a substitute of her Taser. Baker stated Potter did not present any clarification of what she did at that second, one thing he known as “problematic for the protection.”

Halberg added on Friday: “I believed immediately was going to be the knockout punch. But that was not the case.”

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Find the AP’s full protection of the Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright

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