The jury returned guilty verdicts on the charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter at the Hennepin County Courthouse on 23 December after more than 27 hours of deliberations.
Attorneys for Potter, a former Brooklyn Center Police Department officer, had asked that she only be sentenced to probation after she mistook her gun for her taser and shot Wright during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb. Prosecutors asked for the presumptive sentence of 86 months.
A judge handed down a reduced sentence of 24 months at her sentencing hearing on 18 February after Potter spoke in court to apologise to Wright’s family.
Over the course of her trial, the jury was presented with starkly different views of Potter, with the defence saying that she made an innocent mistake by pulling her handgun instead of her Taser and the prosecution portraying her as a veteran cop who had gone through extensive training that warned of such a mix-up.
In closing arguments, prosecutors said she is guilty of “recklessness” and “culpable negligence” and that she endangered not only Wright but her fellow officers and Wright’s girlfriend when she shot him.
Potter’s defence said she had the right to use deadly force to protect her fellow officers and that Wright “caused the whole incident” by failing to follow their commands.
The incident at issue began when Potter and another officer she was training stopped Wright’s car at a traffic signal because it had an expired registration tag, and an air freshener was hanging from the rearview mirror, jurors heard.
Once he was pulled over, Potter determined that Wright had an outstanding warrant against him on a misdemeanour weapons charge, and tried along with two other officers to arrest him.
As Wright attempted to drive away, Potter can be heard on body camera video saying “taser, taser taser” before firing her handgun.
In the aftermath, she was heard shouting: “I grabbed the wrong [expletive] gun.”
The video, shown during the trial from multiple angles, also showed her holding her handgun for about five seconds before firing.
Potter resigned two days after the shooting saying it was in “the best interest of the community”.
The incident sparked widespread protests in the Minneapolis area, where tensions were already high as another white police officer, Derek Chauvin, was at the time facing trial for the 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man.
Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, demanded Potter face the maximum penalty under the law as she delivered a victim impact statement at sentencing on 18 February.
She described being held back from her son in the moments after the shooting and watching Potter’s distress.
“She referred to Daunte over and over again as the driver, as if killing him wasn’t enough to dehumanize him,” she said. “She never once said his name, and for that, I’ll never be able to forgive you. I’ll never be able to forgive you for what you’ve stolen from us.”
The mother continued: “A police officer who was supposed to serve and protect someone took so much from us. She took our baby boy with a single gunshot through his heart, and she shattered mine. My life and my world will never, ever be the same.
Addressing the judge, she said: “Your honor, I’m stuck with three questions I ask myself: How do you show remorse when you’re smiling in your mugshot after being sentenced to manslaughter after taking my son’s life? How do you say you’re sorry with no tears? How much time is my son’s life worth?”
Wright’s father, Arbuey Wright, also gave a statement about how Potter “damaged my whole family’s heart”.
“Everything we do as a family ends in tears, because all we have is memories left of our son. What should be happy times turns into sadness,” he said as he fought back tears.
He spoke about Potter’s 26 years in law enforcement, saying: “Kim Potter was trained, and was trained to prevent this type of thing from ever happening. She was a police officer longer than my son was alive. I ask that Kim Potter be held accountable and that the maximum sentence be applied, which is incomparable to the life sentence we have been given because [of] her negligence.
“My son Daunte’s life was taken away way too soon and he’s never coming back.”
Additional reporting by agencies