When Police Break the Law: The Trial of Kim Potter

Former police officer Kim Potter is on trial for killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in 2020. Her case is an example of what may happen when police break the law. Keep reading to learn more.

Background

In April 2020, Potter, her partner, and Sgt. Mychal Johnson pulled over Dante Wright at a traffic stop. Once Wright stopped the car, Johnson leaned into the passenger door to disable the vehicle, and Wright claimes she was worried that if Wright decided to flee, her partner would be seriously injured or killed.

Potter reached for her taser to stun Wright and drew her gun instead. In seconds, Wright was shot, and he sped away. He didn't get far and died on the scene. Alayna Albrecht-Payton, Dante's girlfriend, was in the passenger seat at the time of the shooting and will be testifying on the stand.

Potter resigned from the Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police force within days after the shooting. She will be on trial for two counts of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter. So far, she has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

An Example

Potter isn't the first police officer to be tried for murdering a person of color. All three officers responsible for George Floyd's death are on trial, and the Sheriff who murdered 23-year-old Casey Goodson, Jr.

These trials represent a shift in the justice system. Activists have been calling for justice for decades as countless black people of all ages were gunned down by police. In fact, over 400 Black men and women have been killed by police from 2020-2021 alone.

Potter's trial is an example of the shift from excusing law enforcement to prosecuting them when they break the law. Anyone can be a lawbreaker, and no one knows that more than Potter.

The Defense

While Potter's case closely resembles countless police brutality cases on the surface, her situation is somewhat different. Instead of body-cam footage showing intent to kill, footage from this case shows Potter holding her head in her hands as she realizes she just shot Wright.

Footage also shows Potter warning Wright that she would use her taser – a sign that she may have genuinely believed she grabbed it instead of the gun. This is one of the central points of her case, and her defense team is trying to prove that Potter did not act with the intent to kill.

Manslaughter vs. Murder

It's also important to note that Potter is on trial for manslaughter, not murder. Manslaughter is sometimes confused with murder, but it's different because of intent.

  • Murder: The perpetrator acts with the intent to kill – their goal is to end the other person's life.
  • Manslaughter: The defendant acts rashly but without any intention of killing the other person.

During a manslaughter trial, the prosecutor has to prove several things. They have to provide evidence that suggests the defendant was negligent and/or there was causation – their actions are the cause of death.

In Potter's case, the prosecutor will try to prove that Potter was negligent in pulling her gun and should have checked to make sure she had the right weapon before pulling the trigger. It won't be difficult to convince the jury that her actions were the direct cause of Wright's death, and the evidence of negligence could solidify their case.

This is how any manslaughter case proceeds. The prosecutor must show proof of negligence/causation, and the defense will try to prove them wrong. Because Potter's case is happening now, it will be more difficult for her defense team to make a convincing argument.

Unfortunately for Potter, the public's trust in law enforcement is at an all-time low, and there is little sympathy for her in the media. It will be a challenging trial in many ways.

A Strong Defense

Being accused of a crime can be devastating, but few criminal charges come with a stigma like manslaughter. If you have been charged with manslaughter, you deserve a strong defense. At White Law, PLLC, we believe in defending our clients' rights at every stage of the criminal process.

We leave no stone unturned when investigating your case and construct a strategy based on your specific needs. Our team is dedicated to our client's success, and we work tirelessly to help them pursue the most optimal result.

Contact White Law, PLLC today.

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