(MINNEAPOLIS) — After an emotional first few days of witness testimony, the Kim Potter trial is heading into its second week.
Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop earlier this year. Wright was pulled over for an expired registration tab and a hanging air freshener in the back windshield. She has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Potter’s defense maintains that she accidentally shot Wright with her firearm when she meant to shoot him with her stun gun while attempting to arrest him.
Prosecutors argue that regardless of her intent, Potter acted recklessly and negligently, and should have known the difference between her handgun and her stun gun given her more than 20-years of experience on the force due to extensive training.
What to expect this week
The state is continuing with its line of witnesses. Aubrey Wright, Daunte’s father, is expected to take the stand as a “spark-of-life” witness. “Spark-of-life” testimony is based on a Minnesota doctrine that allows the prosecution to share personal background information about a murder victim.
He will not be questioned about the fatal incident that Potter is on trial for.
“Spark-of-life” testimony was also used in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. George Floyd’s girlfriend took the stand to humanize him and give depth to his life story. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Aubrey is expected “to share with the jury who his son Daunte was to him and who Daunte was as a human being,” according to the state.
Dallas Bryant, Daunte’s brother, is also expected to testify. The white Buick LaCrosse that Wright was driving that day was registered in Bryant’s name when Wright was stopped. Wright had gotten the car from Bryant two weeks before the incident and had planned to get the registration tabs updated, according to Wright’s mother, Katie Bryant.
Forensic scientist Melissa Loren, who led the crime scene team following the shooting and crash, will also testify.
Brooklyn Center officer Colleen Fricke will also testify. According to officer Mychal Johnson’s testimony, Fricke expressed concern that Potter might harm herself following the shooting. He said he later took ammunition from the gun Potter had at that time.
“I was able to turn away from her with my firearm, remove the magazine from it and the one round in the chamber, so at that time, there were no rounds in the firearm,” Johnson testified.
When the defense introduces its witnesses, Kim Potter is expected to take the stand.
Key police witnesses
Brooklyn Center officer Anthony Luckey, who was working alongside Potter during the incident, then took the stand and was questioned heavily about the department’s training on stun guns and firearms.
“The policy was: opposite side of your duty firearm,” Luckey said on the stand about Brooklyn Center police training. “That way, officers do not get their firearms confused with their Tasers.”
Luckey said that officers practice drawing the stun guns, go through slideshow lessons and perform continuous hands-on training regarding their weapons. He said they also go through training to not confuse their weapons.
The prosecution is also hinging its argument on Potter’s “reckless” behavior, which they said put a number of people in potential danger. Prosecutors had Luckey recall the shooting — noting that he was hit in the face with a casing from the shot and had let go of Wright at almost the same time as Potter’s shot in his testimony.
New footage released during Luckey’s testimony showed Potter lying on the ground crying after the shooting.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” she said, before hyperventilating for several minutes with her face buried in the grass.
Luckey’s and Sgt. Johnson can be seen reaching down to Potter.
“Just breathe,” Luckey said.
“I’m going to go to prison,” Potter said.
“No, you’re not,” Luckey said.
“Kim, that guy was trying to take off with me in the car!” Johnson said in the video.
Johnson testified that the use of force was justified during cross-examination due to Wright’s resistance and the potential for harm to the officers. Johnson was holding Wright from the passenger side of the car, and let go of him right before he was shot, bodycam footage shows.
The defense argues that Johnson could have been injured by Wright’s vehicle and the use of force was justified.
“And what’s an officer supposed to do when you’re executing an arrest warrant for a weapons violation and trying to find out who the lady is when somebody does that? Are you supposed to let them go?” said defense attorney Earl Gray.
Johnson replied, “no.”
“And if that were the case, with an officer in your position with Kim — officer Potter, trying to stop him from resisting with you and resisting lucky, would it be fair for that officer to use a firearm to stop them?” Gray asked.
Johnson replied, “yes,” citing a state statute that officers can use deadly force to avoid death or grave bodily harm.
Jurors watched several angles of the events, including body camera footage from multiple officers who arrived on the scene of the traffic stop and the subsequent crash — when Wright drove off in his car after being shot by Potter. Defense attorney Paul Engh complained that prosecutors were showing too much footage that was irrelevant to the case, requesting a mistrial. Judge Regina Chu dismissed the request.
Former Brooklyn Center Chief Tim Gannon, who resigned alongside Potter after the incident, is expected to testify for the defense.
Emotional testimony from those close to Wright
Katie Bryant, also known as Katie Wright, recalled the final call she had with her son on the phone, as well as the scene of the car crash where she begged officers for answers.
In court, the prosecution played new police body camera footage that shows Wright’s mother arriving on the scene.
“Is he alive?” she asked officers while sitting on the ground, breathing heavily.
“I don’t know,” an officer replied.
“Are you guys serious? What are you guys talking to me for then?” she said.
Wright’s mother waited on the scene until authorities removed his body, but she was not able to approach him, she said in court.
“I wanted to go comfort my baby. I wanted to hold him. And I wanted to protect him because that’s what mothers do; they protect their children and make sure they’re safe,” she said.
She also recalled intimate details of Wright’s life for the jury.
“He was funny, he was a jokester. He liked to make everybody laugh. He had a smile that lit up a room. He was amazing,” she said on the stand.
Wright’s girlfriend also took the stand, recalling his “happy” and “positive” demeanor.
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