MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The defense called its first witnesses Thursday in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who is accused of shooting and killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop earlier this year.
Potter is expected to take the stand on Friday to testify in her own defense. Court will resume at 9 a.m. CT. FOX 9 is streaming the Potter trial live, gavel to gavel, at fox9.com/live and on the FOX 9 YouTube channel and the FOX 9 News App.
READ MORE: What to know about the Kim Potter trial
The state rested its case immediately after court was gaveled in on Thursday morning. Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu then sent the jury out of the room to discuss several motions. The defense motioned Chu to dismiss the case. Attorneys argued the state had not proven its case, citing confusing testimony over use of force and whether it was appropriate and justified.
Chu denied the defense motion for acquittal, allowing the case to continue.
While the jury was out of the room, Potter reiterated, on the record, that she will testify in the case.
The defense called its first witnesses, including their own use of force expert, Steve Ijames, and former Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon, who resigned shortly after the deadly shooting.
Potter’s defense attorneys then rattled through several character witnesses before Chu adjourned court early. Two more witness have yet to take the stand, one of which is assumed to be Potter.
Closing arguments will likely be heard on Monday.
Kim Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Daunte Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop on April 11. The defense claims the shooting was an accident, that Potter, who is white, mistakenly grabbed her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Wright. But, prosecutors say Potter was reckless and negligent and should go to prison.
The deadly shooting sparked days of protests outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
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Ex-Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon testifies on exit
Former Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon testified for the defense on Thursday. Gannon quickly released the body camera footage of the deadly traffic stop shooting, claiming it was an accidental discharge and Potter mistook her gun for her Taser. He and Potter resigned soon after.
Over state objections, Gannon testified that political pressure in the aftermath of Wright’s shooting death led to his exit from the police department. Gannon had refused to fire Potter immediately following the incident, believing she was entitled to due process.
"I believe one of the reasons I was requested to leave the agency is because I would not immediately fire Kim Potter," he said.
Gannon said he was unemployed for a while after leaving the department, but recently started working as a business agent for Law Enforcement Labor Services where he helps negotiate contracts for police officers.
Ex-police chief: ‘I saw no violation'
Gannon said Potter was known for all the things an officer would want to be known for: handling her calls, doing good police reports and maintaining professionalism.
"She was a fine officer," he said.
Defense attorney Earl Gray asked Gannon for his assessment of Potter’s actions during the deadly traffic stop encounter with Wright.
Gannon said after reviewing some, but not all, of the video footage of the incident, he concluded Potter did not violate any police department policy, procedure or law.
"I saw no violation," he said.
Defense calls use of force expert as 1st witness
The first witness called by the defense was their use of force expert, Steve Ijames. He is a law enforcement veteran from Missouri with a variety of experience as well as leadership and training roles.
Ijames testified about why officers were obligated to arrest Wright at the traffic stop. If there was an arrest warrant, it would be a "dereliction of duty not to," he said.
In cross-examination, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank tried to establish that Potter did not believe lethal force was necessary at that moment during the traffic stop. He questioned Ijames about the use of a gun vs. a Taser. Ijames testified a Taser is a single-trigger pull compared to the multiple shots a police officer usually unloads with his or her firearm.
Both sides appeared to zero in on two critical moments during the traffic stop: whether Sgt. Mychal Johnson was in the vehicle at all when Potter fired the fatal shot and whether Wright was "operating" the car or in a position to do so when she fired.
State use of force expert Seth Stoughton testifies
Prosecutors called their final witnesses on Wednesday, including their use of force expert, Seth Stoughton, who also testified for the state in the Derek Chauvin trial for George Floyd’s murder.
Stoughton, a paid witness, is a former police officer turned associate law school professor. He analyzed all the evidence in the case and agreed Potter meant to deploy her Taser. However, he also said whether it was the less lethal weapon or her firearm, the use of force was not justified given the totality of the circumstances.
"A reasonable officer in Officer Potter’s position would not have concluded there was imminent threat of death or great bodily harm and thus that the use of bodily harm was excessive and was disproportionate to the threat presented," he said.
Daunte Wright's dad gives "spark of life" testimony
Jurors also heard from an emotional Arbuey Wright, Daunte Wright’s father. He took the stand to provide so-called "spark of life" testimony, which Minnesota allows as a way to humanize the victim.
Arbuey told the jury about the family's loss, and grief. He got choked up talking about a photo of Daunte with his own little boy that was taken shortly before the deadly shooting.
"I was so happy for him, because he was so happy," Arbuey said. "He was so happy about junior. It was my chance to be a grandfather."
Kim Potter trial jury
The following jurors have been seated on the jury:
- Juror No. 2: White man in his 50s. Works as an editor in neurology dealing with medical evidence. Testified that he has an unfavorable view of "Blue Lives Matter." Has always wanted to serve on a jury.
- Juror No. 6: White woman in her 60s. Retired special education teacher. She lost one of her four children two years ago to breast cancer.
- Juror No. 7: White man, 29 years old. Overnight operations manager at Target and bass guitar player in a local alternative rock band. Took a firearms safety class when he was a teenager.
- Juror No. 11: Asian woman in her 40s. Works in downtown Minneapolis and said she was concerned about the unrest following the killing of George Floyd.
- Juror No. 17: White woman in her 20s. Has little prior knowledge about the case or legal system.
- Juror No. 19: Black woman in her 30s. Mother of two and a teacher. Owns a gun with a permit and a Taser for personal protection.
- Juror No. 21: White man in his 40s. Father with previous experience serving on a jury.
- Juror No. 22: White man in his 60s. Registered nurse for over 25 years, currently studying to be nurse practitioner. Gun owner. He also manages properties.
- Juror No. 26: Asian woman in her 20s. She is in school and has finals and job interviews coming up, but said she was willing to serve if selected.
- Juror No. 40: White man in his 40s. Participated in the police explorers program in high school, but ultimately decided not to pursue a career in law enforcement because he was afraid of having to fire a gun.
- Juror No. 48: White woman in her 40s. Mother of 2 school-age children. Former IT project manager. Grew up on a farm outside Minnesota.
- Juror No. 55: White man in his 50s. Field engineer in cybersecurity. Navy veteran. Gun owner. Enjoys partaking in Renaissance "steel weapons fighting."
- Juror No. 57: White woman in her 70s. Mother with children in their 40s. She has served on two prior juries.
- Juror No. 58: White man in his 30s. Father of young child. Lives in Eden Prairie. He has a close friend who is a St. Paul police officer.