- Kim Potter was convicted of manslaughter on Thursday for shooting Daunte Wright in April.
- Potter, who later resigned from the police force, shot Wright during a traffic stop in Minnesota.
- Legal experts told Insider that Potter’s decision to testify may have backfired.
A jury convicted Kim Potter on two manslaughter charges Thursday for killing Daunte Wright in April.
Legal experts told Insider that prosecutors used part of Potter’s testimony to make the former Minnesota police officer look negligent to jurors.
Potter, who has since resigned from the force, has said she meant to grab her stun gun when she shot Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Body-camera footage played for the jury shows Potter shooting Wright in the chest while shouting the warning, “Taser!” The footage then shows Potter shout, “Shit! I shot him,” before collapsing to the ground and saying, “I’m going to prison.”
Evidence the prosecution displayed and Potter’s testimony at trial could explain why her wrong-gun defense failed, according to legal experts.
Potter made the decision to testify in her manslaughter trial. The defense attorney Paul Engh said during jury selection that Potter decided to testify so she could tell the court “what she remembers happened.”
Ziv Cohen, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, told Insider it was strategic for Potter’s defense team to call her to the stand last before resting its case.
Cohen said Potter’s attorneys would have anticipated she would be emotional on the stand and want to portray her as sympathetic to the jury.
Potter broke down in tears more than once on the stand and shouted, “I’m sorry it happened,” while under cross-examination by the prosecutor Erin Eldridge.
‘This case is not about whether the defendant is sorry’
Cohen said that Potter’s testimony was successful in making her look remorseful but that the prosecution gained ground when Eldridge hammered Potter with questions about what she did after the shooting.
Eldridge asked Potter about the moments after the shooting and why she didn’t try to save Wright’s life or notify any other officers over the radio about the shooting, which prompted Potter to break down into tears.
Cohen said this portion of Potter’s testimony put her defense in a “tough position” because it “supports this argument of culpable negligence.” Potter was charged with one count of manslaughter by recklessness and one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence.
“It’s clever on the part of the prosecution that they have both of these charges so that if the jury feels uncomfortable convicting her of recklessness, they may still come back with a guilty verdict on the lesser charge of culpable negligence,” Cohen said.
Ayesha Bell Hardaway, an associate professor of law at Case Western Reserve University, said the prosecution landed points with the jury because it showed Potter “made a host of different errors on that particular day,” which supported the culpable-negligence charge. That included showing evidence that Potter didn’t test her stun gun as required on the morning of the day she shot Wright.
The criminal-appeals attorney Matthew Barhoma told Insider prosecutors’ strong messaging that manslaughter is a crime even if it’s a mistake was also beneficial in helping secure a conviction against Potter.
“The one thing the prosecution did a good job in is differentiating for the jury that even though she genuinely thinks that this was a mistake, even though she genuinely acknowledged that and is actually quite remorseful, that is still culpable. That’s still criminal,” Barhoma said.
Eldridge reminded the jury in closing arguments that mistakes could still be crimes. She said: “This case is not about whether the defendant is sorry or whether she’s remorseful.”
The 12-person jury convicted Potter on both first -and second-degree manslaughter charges. She’s expected to be sentenced in April and faces up to 25 years in prison.