MINNEAPOLIS — Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter said in court Tuesday, Dec. 14, that she would like the judge, not the jury, to decide whether she should be subjected to a longer than typical sentence if convicted of manslaughter for shooting Daunte Wright in April.

Potter's decision was put on the record after the Hennepin County District Court jury was dismissed following the testimony of a Brooklyn Center police commander who was directed by the prosecution to go through numerous policy and training requirements for licensed police personnel.

The prosecution has let the court know that if Potter is convicted of either of both counts of first- and second-degree manslaughter, that it will have what is essentially a second trial to determine whether there were aggravating factors that would allow Judge Regina Chu to impose a sentence longer than called for under state sentencing guidelines.

The two factors posed by prosecutors are that Potter "caused a greater than normal danger" when her shooting of Wright led to him getting into a serious crash that injured other people, and that "she abused her position of authority as she was a licensed police officer."

Chu then asked Potter, "Is it your wish to give up your right to a jury trial on whether or not the two [aggravated] factors exist in the event of a guilty verdict?"

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"Yes, your honor," Potter said.

Kimberly Potter booking photo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
Kimberly Potter booking photo, Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

She also said she discussed this decision with her attorneys and did not need more time to think it over.

The day's first witness, Brooklyn Center Police Cmdr. Garett Flesland answered many questions about the department's policies, training and other requirements of all licensed officers. They dealt with the code of conduct, when to employ use of force, engage in pursuits and other matters spelled out by department that officers are required to know and follow.

Before Flesland testified, Chu shot down two motions from prosecutors having to do with two lines of questioning earlier in the trial.

The prosecution wanted Chu to reconsider her upholding of a defense objection when Potter's leadership role in the police labor union arose. Prosecutor Matthew Frank said it was important that jurors know about the relationships that witnesses might have with Potter through the union.

Chu ruled against prosecutors and said that Potter is no longer part of the union, so no witnesses "could possibly be biased [about] her behavior" on the day that Wright was killed.

The judge also ruled that the testimony of Potter's former supervisor, Mychal Johnson, was valid even though he was not seated as an expert witness. "I ruled that police officers [can] testify about what they are trained to do under certain circumstances [and] are entitled to render an opinion about that."

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Sam McGinnis testified Monday, Dec. 13, that Potter's handgun with 17 rounds inside — its condition after Wright was killed — weighed 2.11 pounds, while her Taser weighed 0.94 pounds.

McGinnis testified about other differences as a picture of Potter's Taser and handgun were shown to jurors: The yellow Taser has a stockier body, a smoother grip, a much shorter handle and a flat trigger vs. the black gun's curved trigger. The Taser has an external safety while the handgun has an internal safety and a button that needs to be depressed to fire.

Prosecutor Joshua Larson tried to give jurors the Taser and handgun to hold in order to feel the differences, but Potter's defense objected. Chu sustained the objection and told jurors they'd have the de-activated weapons during deliberations.

Earlier, McGinnis stood and held a Taser of the same model aloft and activated the device, which beeped. He pointed it at the wall, showing jurors its LED light and laser, which projected red and green pinpoints. The Taser's flashlight also shined a noticeable circle of white light in the courtroom.

Defense attorney Paul Engh focused his cross-examination of McGinnis on similarities between the two weapons.

"Tasers in general have a handle that is similar to a gun, correct? There are differences of course, but it's designed so you hold it in your hand, right?" Engh asked. "Correct," McGinnis said.

"It's designed so that you pull a trigger like a gun, right?" Engh asked. "They both have triggers, yes," McGinnis said.

"And it's designed so you aim at somebody, right?" Engh asked. "Yes," McGinnis said.

Monday began in the 49-year-old Potter's trial with testimony from Assistant Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Lorren Jackson.

Jackson explained his findings as autopsy photos of Wright were shown to jurors and an overflow courtroom; the images were not on the trial's livestream.

Jackson testified that the bullet tore through Wright's heart and both of his lungs. More than 3 liters of blood was found in Wright's chest, he said, adding that a person of Wright's size typically has 4.5 to 5 liters of blood in his body.

"When you lose half of that rapidly, your condition becomes critical," Jackson said, adding that Wright's injury was not survivable and would result in death within seconds to minutes.

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