MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Jurors wrapped up five-plus hours of deliberations on Monday without a decision in the trial of Kim Potter and are set to return Tuesday morning, Judge Chu said Monday deliberations would go until 6 p.m. and jurors are being sequestered at a hotel for the length of deliberations. FOX 9 is streaming the Potter trial live, gavel to gavel, at fox9.com/live and on the FOX 9 YouTube channel and the FOX 9 News App.
After gaveling in on Monday morning, Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu delivered instructions to the jury. Chu said she will not make jurors deliberate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. They will return after the holiday if they have not reached a verdict by then.
Both sides delivered their closing arguments, with the state getting the last word with their rebuttal. Chu then gave the jury initial instructions before dismissing the two alternate jurors and sending the rest off to deliberate. The jury will be sequestered for the duration of deliberations, meaning they will not go home until they reach a unanimous verdict.
With the jury out of room, Potter's defense team asked for another mistrial, arguing Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank abused rebuttal arguments by going too long and made factually inaccurate claims related to the charges in the case. However, Judge Chu swiftly denied the motion.
UPDATES & FAQS: What to know about the Kim Potter trial
Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Daunte Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop on April 11. The defense claims the shooting was an accident, that Potter, who is white, mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Wright. But, prosecutors say Potter was reckless and negligent and should go to prison.
The deadly shooting sparked days of protests outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
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Potter faces up to 15 years in prison, although the sentencing guidelines call for less. Prosecutors have already said they will seek a stiffer sentence for Potter if she is convicted.
Protesters brave cold to await verdict
Despite temperatures in the teens, protesters waited outside the Hennepin County Government Center as jury deliberations began on Monday.
"When I say I'm going to stay with you every day, I mean every day," said protester Tanya James.
On the lawn in front of the government center, the group was huddled together to show support for the Wright family. Signs posted call for justice in his killing.
James, of Little Rock, Arkansas, says she is doing whatever it takes to show support for the Wright family.
Prosecution closing arguments
Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge delivered the closing arguments for the state. She began by showing photos of Wright, reminding the jury that Potter’s children will be home for the holidays, but Wright’s family members will be without their son, brother and father.
"Daunte Wright’s parents, Katie and Arbuey Wright, will have an empty seat at their table this holiday season because the defendant shot and killed him on April 11 of this year," she said.
Eldridge then went frame by frame through Potter’s body camera footage of the deadly traffic stop. She countered the defense argument that Potter was trying to protect the life of Sgt. Mychal Johnson, who was leaning into the vehicle trying to prevent Wright from driving off.
"If anyone saved Sgt. Johnson’s life, it was Daunte Wright when he took a bullet to the chest," she said.
Eldridge broke down the definition and elements of manslaughter charges, reminding jurors the state does not need to prove Potter "intended" to kill Wright during the traffic stop. Potter is not charged with murder, she said.
Eldridge told the jury Potter was trained and warned for years about not mistaking her gun and her Taser. She said Potter was "reckless and culpably negligent" for Wright’s death.
"This was no little oopsie," she said. "This was not putting the wrong date on a check. This was not entering the wrong password somewhere. This was a colossal screw-up, a blunder of epic proportions."
Eldridge ended her argument saying that Potter destroyed public trust in police to safeguard lives.
"The defendant shattered that trust when she shattered Daunte Wright’s heart," she said. "She chose right instead of left. She chose wrong instead of right."
Defense closing arguments
In his closing argument, defense attorney Earl Gray made three key arguments: Wright’s actions caused his own death, Potter had the right to use deadly force and she cannot be charged with recklessly using a gun when she did not know she had one.
Gray pleaded with the jury to act upon reasonable doubt, telling them that 10 years from now they should be able to say, "By golly, I did the right thing when I found Kim Potter not guilty."
Gray argued everything Potter did was legal and blamed Wright for his taking off "like a jet" in his car after the shooting. He said Wright should have remained at the scene to get immediate medical care.
"Did they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [Potter[ caused the death of Daunte Wright? No, he caused his own death," Gray said.
Gray told the jury to find Potter not guilty, arguing, "she didn’t cause this."
Some of the police experts and witnesses called to testify in the case said Potter would have been justified to use deadly force if she had intended to use her gun given the risk to Sgt. Johnson.
"She had the right to use deadly force," Gray said. "We proved it."
Gray also argued against the state’s manslaughter statute, saying, "How do you recklessly use a handgun when you didn’t know you had it?"
Earl Gray then got to the core of his defense. "In the walk of life, everyone makes mistakes," he said, adding, "My gosh, a mistake is not a crime."
Kim Potter testimony
Before the defense rested on Friday, jurors finally heard from Potter herself.
The former officer explained what she remembered about shooting Wright, at times breaking down on the stand. She testified she saw fear on Sgt. Mychal Johnson’s face inside the vehicle where he was attempting to keep Wright from fleeing in the vehicle, telling the jury, "it just went chaotic."
"I remember yelling, ‘Taser, Taser, Taser’ and nothing happened. And then he told me I shot him," she said.
She apologized in tears, saying she did not mean to shoot Wright.
"I'm sorry it happened," she said. "I'm so sorry."
Some legal experts said they wanted to hear more about what Potter was thinking when she pulled her gun instead of her Taser, especially after testifying that she saw fear on the face of another officer who was leaning inside the car as Wright tried to drive off.
"I was waiting for questions at that point about ‘Well, I thought he could die. In the moment, I had to make a snap decision,’ so maybe that was a defense tactic to leave that out and they’ll argue that in closing statements," criminal defense attorney Marsh Halberg said. "But, I think the jury would have like to have known a little more about what was going on in her head at that moment."
Brooklyn Center schools start winter break early
Winter break is coming early for those in the Brooklyn Center school district.
Classes are out starting Monday instead of Wednesday. School officials say they hope the extension will allow families to avoid any challenges that may arise in the community as a result of the trial verdict.
Kim Potter trial jury
The following 12 jurors will hear the case. The two alternate jurors, jurors No. 57 and No. 58, were dismissed prior to deliberations beginning.
- Juror No. 2: White man in his 50s. Works as an editor in neurology dealing with medical evidence. Testified that he has an unfavorable view of "Blue Lives Matter." Has always wanted to serve on a jury.
- Juror No. 6: White woman in her 60s. Retired special education teacher. She lost one of her four children two years ago to breast cancer.
- Juror No. 7: White man, 29 years old. Overnight operations manager at Target and bass guitar player in a local alternative rock band. Took a firearms safety class when he was a teenager.
- Juror No. 11: Asian woman in her 40s. Works in downtown Minneapolis and said she was concerned about the unrest following the killing of George Floyd.
- Juror No. 17: White woman in her 20s. Has little prior knowledge about the case or legal system.
- Juror No. 19: Black woman in her 30s. Mother of two and a teacher. Owns a gun with a permit and a Taser for personal protection.
- Juror No. 21: White man in his 40s. Father with previous experience serving on a jury.
- Juror No. 22: White man in his 60s. Registered nurse for over 25 years, currently studying to be nurse practitioner. Gun owner. He also manages properties.
- Juror No. 26: Asian woman in her 20s. She is in school and has finals and job interviews coming up, but said she was willing to serve if selected.
- Juror No. 40: White man in his 40s. Participated in the police explorers program in high school, but ultimately decided not to pursue a career in law enforcement because he was afraid of having to fire a gun.
- Juror No. 48: White woman in her 40s. Mother of 2 school-age children. Former IT project manager. Grew up on a farm outside Minnesota.
- Juror No. 55: White man in his 50s. Field engineer in cybersecurity. Navy veteran. Gun owner. Enjoys partaking in Renaissance "steel weapons fighting."
The two alternate jurors who were dismissed were:
- Juror No. 57: White woman in her 70s. Mother with children in their 40s. She has served on two prior juries.
- Juror No. 58: White man in his 30s. Father of young child. Lives in Eden Prairie. He has a close friend who is a St. Paul police officer.