The trial of the former Minnesota police officer charged with fatally shooting Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, began Tuesday as attorneys began choosing jurors.
The defendant, Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force, is charged with first and second degree manslaughter in the April 11 shooting, which happened when she and several officers pulled Wright over for expired license plate tags, but discovered he had outstanding warrants for his arrest. She claims she mistook her gun for her taser when trying to arrest Wright, which her body camera footage seems to indicate, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
After the incident, which took place as the trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd case drew to a close, Potter resigned.
But the body camera footage, unlike the Chauvin case, may work in favor of the defense legal experts said.
"Compared to Chauvin's case, the case against Potter is going to be more difficult for the prosecution to prove," Ted Sampsell-Jones, professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., told the Star-Tribune. "The difference boils down to the videotapes. In Chauvin's case, the video recordings were powerful evidence of guilt. In Potter's case, the video recordings are equivocal and may demonstrate innocence."
Wright was initially outside of his vehicle in the footage. When police realized he had a warrant for a misdemeanor weapons charge, he jumped back into his car. Body camera footage shows Potter drawing her handgun and firing a single shot at Wright. She yelled, "Taser! Taser! Taser!" He drove away, only a few hundred feet, where his car was found crashed into another vehicle.
Prosecutors will be tasked with proving different things for each manslaughter charge, according to Joe Tamburino, a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney.
“In both cases, we’re dealing with recklessness or negligence. And for the first-degree manslaughter, that means that there’s an underlying offense. In this case, they’re alleging misdemeanor mishandling of a firearm,” Tamburino told CBS Minnesota. “For the second-degree, they’re just stating that it is reckless or extreme negligence. So for the second one, they would have to show that Ms. Potter was extremely negligent when she did the act. For the first-degree, they would have to show not only was she negligent, but also, she did an underlying crime, meaning the misdemeanor mishandling of a weapon.”
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Reuters reports that jury selection is expected to take nearly a week, with opening statements in the case scheduled to begin on Dec. 8.
If Potter is convicted, she faces maximum sentences of 15 years and 10 years, respectively.