MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter will return to a Hennepin County courtroom Friday morning to be sentenced for the April 2021 traffic stop shooting death of an unarmed Black motorist. A jury in December found Potter guilty of two counts of manslaughter, in the first and second degree, for killing Daunte Wright.
Minnesota state sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of 86 months in prison, or just over seven years for someone like Potter who has no criminal record. Potter’s legal team is asking the presiding Judge Regina Chu for probation. Experts say Judge Chu has wide latitude when ultimately imposing sentence.
"I think Judge Chu has probably at this point largely made up her mind, although she will wait to see what the lawyers and whoever else speaks at sentencing say," explained University of St. Thomas (MN) Associate Law Professor Rachel Moran. "She does have such a wide range of what she could do, and that's sobering. It's also sobering to know how much the community cares about this case and how feelings are very strong."
In a filing this week, prosecutors, who until recently were seeking an upward departure at sentencing, wrote that the 86-month, mid-range prison term for a person convicted on the top count of first-degree manslaughter is appropriate given the gravity situation and the loss of a young life.
"They've made very clear from nearly the beginning when they filed the first-degree manslaughter charge that they would be seeking an enhanced sentence," said Moran, a former public defender whose area of study now includes criminal law and policing. "And now this most recent filing, it doesn't actually backtrack completely, but it seems to suggest that a mid-range sentence would be appropriate and that that's all the state is asking for."
In their filings, the prosecution team led by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison wrote that if the judge is inclined to go lower, at a minimum, they want Potter spending at least one year in jail, followed by a lengthy 10-year probation term.
They also suggest the soon-to-be 50-year-old speaks out to law enforcement agencies about the dangers of weapons confusion and makes herself available to the Wright family if they want to discuss the tragic loss of their son and brother.
"I don't think the judge is going to impose anything like that," said Moran. "So my sense about that was they were more trying to focus on how she could be using her time productively and how the lawyers don't seem to be. She hasn't actually shown remorse through her filings in a way that the state would like."
Moran believes on the witness stand, Potter displayed true remorse, shock and horror that she killed a young man. But her attorneys continue to blame Wright for attempting to flee arrest and failing to obey police orders. Moran explained judges often look for defendants who take responsible for their actions before ultimately deciding on punishment.
Potter is expected to address the court directly before Judge Chu imposes sentence. Wright’s loved ones are likely to do the same in victim impact statements. Sentencing begins at 9 a.m. and will be livestreamed on FOX 9 video platforms.