Jury in Kim Potter trial ends another day without verdict

In this image taken from video, the prosecution, left, and the defense, right, stand, as the jury enters the courtroom to deliver a question to Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu, during deliberations Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter’s trial for the April 11 death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV via AP, Pool

Jurors weighing the case of the suburban Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Black motorist Daunte Wright asked the judge after a full day of deliberations Tuesday what they should do if they can’t reach a verdict.

Judge Regina Chu told them to continue working, as was explained in the initial instructions she gave them. The jurors resumed deliberations for about 90 more minutes, then ended for the day shortly after 6 p.m. The jury also deliberated for about five hours on Monday.

Former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter, who is white, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter. If convicted of the most serious charge, Potter, 49, would face a sentence of about seven years under state guidelines, though prosecutors have said they will seek more.

Potter said she meant to use her Taser on Wright rather than her gun. Prosecutors presented evidence on the differences between the gun and the Taser, including weight, feel, size, color, and that the gun was holstered on her right side and the Taser on her left.

Prosecutor Erin Eldridge had said in her closing argument that the jurors would be able to hold both the Taser and the gun to compare them, “to get a feel for the two, and to get a sense of all those differences that you heard about in court, and see for yourselves how different they really are.”

The jurors asked if they could remove zip ties keeping former Potter’s gun in an evidence box so they could hold it, and the judge said they could. Potter attorney Paul Engh had objected, saying that the gun should remain in the box “for safety purposes.”

Jurors can also examine the Taser during their deliberations.

Chu read the jury’s question about deliberating: “If the jury cannot reach consensus, what is the guidance around how long and what steps should be taken?”

She then reread from jury instructions that the jurors should continue to “discuss the case with one another and deliberate with a view toward reaching agreement if you can do so without violating your individual judgment.”

Potter’s attorneys objected to the judge rereading that instruction, arguing that doing so inappropriately emphasized that paragraph over the rest of the instructions. Chu overruled.

Rachel Moran, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, noted that the jurors didn’t say they were at an impasse.

“Judge (Regina) Chu is going to let them keep deliberating if they don’t express concern or distress about how it’s going. I don’t think she would interrupt the deliberations just because they are going long,” Moran said.

The judge has ordered that the jury be sequestered during deliberations — meaning they remain under the court’s supervision in an undisclosed hotel and cannot return home until they have reached a verdict or the judge has determined they can’t reach one. Her order allows them to communicate with family members as long as they avoid discussing the trial.

During closing arguments, prosecutors accused Potter of a “blunder of epic proportions” in Wright’s death in an April 11 traffic stop — but said a mistake was no defense.

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