"The use of deadly force wasn't appropriate, and the evidence suggests that a reasonable officer at Officer Potter's place could not have believed it was proportional the threat at the moment," stated Seth Wayne Stoughton of the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Potter, who resigned as a Brooklyn Center officer two days after shooting and killing Wright, said that she intended to use her Taser to replace her gun when Wright attempted to drive away from officers trying to arrest him for an outstanding weapons possession charge.
Although the defense calls the shooting a terrible mistake, it also claims that Potter would have been entitled to use deadly force against Wright because he may have dragged another officer along with his car.
The prosecution is nearing the end and has tried to portray Potter, an officer whose intention to use a Taser would be against department policy, despite her extensive training.
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After being pulled over for expired license plates and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, Potter, 49, was charged with first-degree and second-degree murder in Wright's April 11th death. The moments Wright pulled away from the officers trying to arrest him for the outstanding warrant were captured on video. Potter shouted "I'll tie you!" Wright was then shot with her handgun.
Potter is white, Wright was black. His death sparked several nights of protests at Brooklyn Center. The incident occurred while Derek Chauvin (a former white officer) was being tried in Minneapolis for the murder of George Floyd.
At Chauvin’s trial, Stoughton testified that he judged Chauvin’s actions against what a reasonable officer in the same situation would do. He repeatedly found that Chauvin acted excessively by holding Floyd facedown, with a knee across Floyd's neck, for as long as 9 minutes, 29 seconds.
An earlier Wednesday testimony by a Taser and use-of force instructor from Brooklyn Center Police Department stated that officers can use deadly force against fleeing suspects.
Sgt. Under cross-examination by Potter's attorney, Mike Peterson stated that officers are trained in warning them before using their Tasers. He said "I'll put a tase on you." Under cross-examination from Potter's attorney, he also admitted that officers can use Tasers to subdue violent or resisting suspects.
Peterson stated that the decision about whether to use a Taser, or any other force, "has to made in a very brief amount of time" and that other cases have occurred where officers mistakenly mistook a gun for Taser.
"It is possible to make mistakes when someone confuses the Taser with a firearm." Peterson was asked by Paul Engh, Potter attorney.
Peterson stated, "Correct."
Garett Flesland, Brooklyn Center Police Officer, testified Tuesday that Potter was taught policies throughout her 26-year career. She also signed numerous documents acknowledging those policies. Flesland presented several documents as evidence that showed Potter's multiple certifications in Taser training and her awareness about the warnings. One of these certifications was one she received the month before Wright was killed.
Peterson also led jurors through the Brooklyn Center's Taser training procedures. Matthew Frank, the prosecutor, showed them pages of the manufacturer's and department's materials. Frank warned against the dangers associated with mixing a Taser with a handgun. Frank highlighted the parts that said a Taser should be used to stop fleeing suspects and on suspects operating vehicles.
Peterson demonstrated how officers should conduct a "spark testing" at the start of each shift to ensure that their Tasers work. Peterson did this using his own device that generated a loud buzz for five second as electricity arced between the electrodes.
Sam McGinnis was a senior agent with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and testified Monday that Potter did not pass the Taser test the day she shot Wright.
Judge Regina Chu ruled Tuesday, that Potter would be convicted of either one or both manslaughter charges against her. She would then preside over a separate case to determine if there were aggravating circumstances that would permit Chu to sentence Potter above the state's guidelines.
The state sentencing guidelines allow for just under seven years imprisonment for first-degree manslaughter convictions and four years for second degree, although prosecutors say they intend to seek longer sentences.
To be sentencing Potter above the guidelines, prosecutors must prove that there are aggravating factors. Prosecutors allege that Potter caused danger to others and abused her authority.
These aggravating factors were presented by the prosecution when they introduced testimony about Wright's injuries and that of a passenger in the car that crashed into Wright's just after Potter was shot. Chu stated that this testimony was not prejudicial, and could be retained in this case as evidence regarding the crash also concerns whether Potter's use or unreasonable force.
A majority of the jury is white and hearing the case.