‘Being a good person doesn’t mean you’re above the law’
A juror in the trial of Minnesota police officer Kim Potter has revealed the private jury room discussions that led them to convict the officer for shooting dead an unarmed Black man – 20-year-old Daunte Wright.
Earlier this month, the 49-year-old former officer was found guilty of first-degree and second-degree manslaughter, over the April traffic stop that turned into the tragedy, when Potter, apparently mistakenly, took out her firearm rather than her Tazer.
During her testimony, Potter, a 25-year veteran with Brooklyn Center Police Department, sobbed and insisted her actions were a mistake. She said she was sorry that it had happened, and that things had had turned “chaotic”.
The jury spent 27 hours deliberating on the two charges before returning unanimous on both; the amount of time the jury took let some in the media to speculate that Potter was to be acquitted.
Now, one of the jurors has revealed some of the conversations that took place in the jury room, away from lawyers, the judge and the public.
Speaking to Kare-11 News in Minneapolis, the juror who asked not to be identified, said the case had been particularly interesting because it was not about trying to establish facts.
“It was more our interpretation of our jury instructions and the law,” said the juror, one of six men in the jury.
“Those last couple days were literally just focusing in on the language of the law.”
The juror said he felt that Potter guilty on both counts, but that not everyone in the room felt the same.
“We did an initial vote, then we did temperature checks throughout,” the juror told Kare-11 reporter Lou Raguse.
“Initially for both counts we were predominantly ‘guilty’. For Count 1, it was seven for guilty and the remainders were either ‘not guilty’ or didn’t know. Then for Count 2, eight said guilty, two said not guilty and two didn’t know.”
He said nobody in the jury believed Potter had intended to kill the young man.
“I think we believed she was a good person and even believed she was a good cop,” the juror said. “No one felt she was intentional in this. It’s ludicrous that some people are assuming we thought she was a racist. That never came up or anything like that. We felt like she was a good person, we felt she made a mistake, and that a mistake does not absolve you from the fact she did commit a crime.”
The juror said a key moment for them all was when they were able to pick up and feel the weight of both a Tazer, and a handgun.
“The gun was about twice as heavy, and the two weapons had several differences in how they are un-holstered and fired,” the juror said. “The Taser kind of feels like a mouse click whereas the [pistol’s] trigger has some trigger draw weight.”
The juror said they were tense and at times heated moments in the jury room, as deliberations spread over four days.
He said the breakthrough in reaching a unanimous decision came after two “hold-outs”, asked to be permitted to talk privately with each others.
“He was caught up on the language and she was not. She helped clear up the language for him,” he said. “She was caught up on the accountability side of things and he helped clear that up for her. It was kind of interesting that they worked each other out.”
Potter faces about seven years in prison under the state’s sentencing guidelines, but prosecutors said they would seek a longer term.
The family of Daunte Wright thanked the lawyers who had helped them after the verdict.
His mother, Katie Bryant, hugged Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and said the verdicts triggered “every single emotion that you could imagine”.
She said: “Today we have gotten accountability and that’s what we’ve been asking for from the beginning.”
The juror revealed that once the jury had reached the verdict, there was then a 90-minute wait until it was read out.
“So that last hour and a half, I was finally allowing myself to think of the consequences of this tragedy,” he said.
“Obviously we had been thinking about what this meant for Daunte Wright’s family, but now I started to think about what this meant for Kim Potter’s family.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press