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December 24, 2021

Previewing sentencing facing former officer Kim Potter after manslaughter convictions for killing Daunte Wright

This extended AP article provide a helpful accounting of what we might now expect in sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Kim Potter after a jury convicted her yesterday on two counts of manslaughter.  Here are excerpts:

The former suburban Minneapolis police officer who said she confused her handgun for her Taser when she killed Daunte Wright will be sentenced in February after a jury convicted her Thursday on two counts of manslaughter.  The most serious charge against Kim Potter — first-degree manslaughter — carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison....

Under Minnesota statutes, Potter, who is white, will be sentenced only on the most serious charge of first-degree manslaughter.  That’s because both of the charges against her stem from one act, with one victim.

The max for that charge is 15 years.  But state sentencing guidelines call for much less.  For someone with no criminal history, like Potter, the guidelines range from just more than six years to about 8 1/2 years, with the presumptive sentence being slightly over seven years.

Prosecutors have said they'd seek a sentence above the guideline range, while the defense said they would seek no prison time.  In order for Judge Regina Chu to issue a sentence that's outside the guideline range, she would first have to find either mitigating or aggravating factors.  Both sides are expected to file written arguments.

Prosecutors say aggravating factors in Potter's case include that she caused a greater-than-normal danger to the safety of other people when she fired into the car, including danger to her fellow officers, to Wright’s passenger and to the couple whose car was struck by Wright’s after the shooting.... Prosecutors also say Potter abused her authority as a police officer.

Defense attorney Paul Engh said the defense would be seeking a “dispositional departure” from sentencing guidelines. Under state statutes, a mitigated dispositional departure occurs when guidelines recommend a prison sentence, but a judge allows the sentence to be “stayed" — meaning the defendant doesn't go to prison....

In arguing that Potter should remain free on bail until she is sentenced, Engh said: "She is amenable to probation. Her remorse and regret for the incident is overwhelming.  She’s not a danger to the public whatsoever.  She’s made all her court appearances.” Chu was unmoved, and Potter was taken into custody after the verdicts were read....

The defense can also make the argument that as a police officer, Potter's confinement would likely be harsher than most because of the need to keep her safe.  The former Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd's death, Derek Chauvin, has been in solitary confinement for that reason....

In determining a final sentence, Chu will consider the arguments made by both sides, as well as victim impact statements.  She has also ordered a pre-sentence investigation of Potter.  And Potter can make a statement at her sentencing hearing — a time when judges are typically looking to see if a person takes responsibility for the crime or shows remorse....

No matter what sentence Potter gets, in Minnesota it’s presumed that a defendant with good behavior will serve two-thirds of their penalty in prison and the rest on supervised release, commonly known as parole.  That means if Potter is sentenced to the presumptive seven years, she would likely serve about four years and nine months behind bars, and the rest on supervised release.  Once on supervised release, she could be sent back to prison if she violates conditions of his parole.  If she gets the maximum 15 years, she could be behind bars for 10 before being placed on parole.

December 24, 2021 at 11:56 AM | Permalink


This is an out and out travesty—politicized justice at its absolute worst. There is simply no evidence from which a reasonable fact under could find Ms. Potter guilty beyond reasonable doubt. All the evidence points to one conclusion—that this was an avoidant with no culpable mental state. A split second unknowing act (no one seriously believes that she intended to shoot Wright with a gun)—which means that she didn’t realize that he had a gun instead of a taser.

And no, this is not a jury call—this is a prosecutor call, and they should be disbarred for this . The judge has earned ms potter’s white hot hatred.

The only just outcome here is a dismissal.

Posted by: Federalist | Dec 24, 2021 1:27:37 PM

Another horrible travesty of justice. I had read that there were at least two experts who testified that she would have been completely within her duties to have fired her gun, whether it was an accident or not. There are hundreds of incidents where tasing a thug didn't stop the thug. It appears that her exclaiming that she made a mistake is the sole evidence considered by the jury.

So the case should never have been brought in the first place, The thug with multiple crimes resisted arrest. He was a danger to the police and to the community. Why did a black DA bring this case? In the second place, why did the jury convict on such an obvious case of accidental death of a criminal thug who was a danger to society?

We can only pray that this case is reversed in higher courts, the DA is censured, recalled and disbarred, and this officer is exonerated. Because this case affects motivation and morale for police all over the US. Who would want to stop violent thugs if that would means this occurs? The verdict in this case ranks right up there with "defund the police," the obvious self defense in the Arbery case, and the atrocity of the Chauvin trial in the destruction of law enforcement and justice in the United States.

No matter what the sentence is--even it is time served--the damage has been done to the entire system. We are witness to the end of the American system of laws and justice as mob justice and racialized enforcement takes control. Reap the whirlwind.

Posted by: restless94110 | Dec 24, 2021 6:28:17 PM

Self-defense in arbery case? When you pull guns on people, you don’t get to claim self-defense.

Posted by: Federalist | Dec 24, 2021 11:14:40 PM


Posted by: Federalist | Dec 25, 2021 11:22:26 AM

Not discussed- How much of the aggravators and lack of mitigators were necessarily found by the jury? Anything over the recommended sentence would seem vulnerable to a Blakely challenge, and anything over probation would seem to be covered by Alleyne if the article's implication that the judge cannot go below guidelines without a finding is correct. Perhaps Doug can enlighten us here.

Posted by: Jacob Berlove | Dec 25, 2021 10:20:14 PM

I am dead certain the demonstrations and the implied threat of riots had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the decisions of the prosecutor, jury, or judge.

I am particularly certain that no message was being sent or received when MSNBC followed the jury bus.

Also, the under-staffed state of various Minnesota police departments has nothing at all to do with this.

Posted by: Wiliam Jockusch | Dec 29, 2021 10:42:48 AM

Wiliam Jockusch --

Your concerns are well taken. The mob atmosphere that started at least with the Freddy Gray case in Baltimore has, if anything, become more worrisome.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 29, 2021 12:39:04 PM

Remember, Bill, when I vehemently criticized the John Edwards charges? This is a far worse travesty.

Generally, simple mistakes, even those with deadly consequences aren’t punishable under the criminal law. That’s what this was—or more accurately, there’s not a shred of evidence to indicate otherwise,

The judge in this case is an absolutely horrendous human being for not having the moral courage to stand up for the mob. She has earned the contempt of all decent people.

Posted by: Federalist | Dec 29, 2021 4:10:43 PM

Seriously, I can't even begin to comprehend how the available facts could possibly lead to a conviction for voluntary manslaughter.

Involuntary? I don't know. Does she have a history of firearms handling mistakes? If so, I could imagine it. Anyone who is prone to that kind of mistake should not be a police officer. Not saying that she is or is not prone to that kind of mistake. It would need to be a pattern of such mistakes that made her clearly worse than the average person in that department. But the possibility should be investigated. If she is more prone to such mistakes than is the average person, it might be reasonable to construe her decision to remain a police officer as reckless.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Dec 30, 2021 10:39:09 AM

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