As we talked about on the blog last week, intent would not factor in to whether or not a jury found Minneapolis police officer Kim Potter guilty of manslaughter for her role in the death of Daunte Wright. During a traffic stop in which Wright attempted to get back in his vehicle, Potter claimed to have mistaken her service weapon for her taser. She shot Wright, who later died from his injuries.
After four days and 27 hours of deliberations, a jury found Potter guilty of both first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter for her role in Wright’s death. She will be sentenced in February, but we wanted to take a closer look at what type of sentence she might receive.
Kim Potter Sentencing
Although Potter was found guilty of both first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter, she will only face sentencing for the more severe of the two charges since both charges stem from the same incident. In being found guilty of first-degree, the jury held that Potter caused Wright’s death while recklessly handling a firearm in a manner that death or great bodily harm was reasonably foreseeable.
The maximum sentence for someone convicted of first-degree manslaughter in Minnesota is 15 years, but the state’s sentencing guidelines actually call for much less. According to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, a person with no criminal history should be sentenced to between six and 8.5 years, with the presumptive sentence being just over seven years.
Prosecutors have already announced that they will push for a sentence above the presumptive guideline range, while the defense stated that they will push for no prison time. If Judge Regina Chu decides to go above or below the standard presumptive guidelines, she will need to find that mitigating or aggravating factors exist.
Possible Aggravating Factor – Prosecutors may argue that Potter’s decision to fire into a vehicle caused a greater-than-normal danger to Wright’s passenger, her fellow officers and the general public.
Possible Mitigating Factor – The defense plans to argue that Potter is remorseful for her actions, she has no criminal history, she’s not a danger to the public, she’s made all her court appearances and that she is amenable to probation or home monitoring.
Judge Chu will consider both arguments as well as any victim impact statements before handing down a sentence. In our opinion, it seems unlikely that Judge Chu will go below the presumptive sentencing guidelines, but it would also be surprising if she went significantly above the 8.5 year benchmark as well. We’ll circle back in February to see what type of sentence Judge Chu hands down.