Jury deliberation has begun in the trial of Kim Potter, a 26-year police force veteran who faces manslaughter charges in the death of Daunte Wright. As you’re probably aware since the incident unfolded in our backyard, Wright died during a traffic stop when Potter discharged her firearm as Wright attempted to get back into his vehicle and drive away. Dashcam footage appears to show that Potter thought she grabbed her Taser but instead grabbed her service firearm, which resulted in the fatal shot.
While both sides will certainly argue their case, the framework is there to suggest that Potter did not intend to shoot and kill Wright with her firearm in the heat of the moment. However, we want to share why in this case, intent doesn’t actually matter when ruling on these charges.
Potter Faces Manslaughter Charges
The reason intent doesn’t matter is because Potter faces manslaughter charges, and by definition, manslaughter doesn’t need to involve intent. Per the law, manslaughter in Minnesota involves the unlawful killing of a person without “malice aforethought.” In other words, there is no premeditation or intent to take someone’s life. Typically manslaughter charges come out of a situation of extreme passion or negligence. For example, if you caught your spouse in bed with someone else and killed them on the spot in a blind rage, you may face manslaughter charges. However, if you waited a week and planned how to take their lives, that’s murder. However, that definition doesn’t really apply to this scenario.
Here, we’ll be focusing on the other aspect of manslaughter, which is negligence. A drunk driver who runs over a pedestrian could face manslaughter charges for acting with extreme negligence by for getting behind the wheel while inebriated and disobeying other traffic laws when striking a pedestrian. They did not intend to kill the pedestrian, but a series of poor choices led to a person’s death for which the driver can be held accountable.
That’s the definition that will be debated as the jury convenes. Potter faces first-degree and second-degree manslaughter charges, which state:
1st Degree – Whoever violates section 609.224 and causes the death of another or causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense with such force and violence that death of or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable, and murder in the first or second degree was not committed thereby, is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both.
2nd Degree – A person who causes the death of another by the person’s culpable negligence, whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another, is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.
So the heart of the case comes down to whether or not Potter’s actions created a reasonably foreseeable risk of death, or whether or not she acted so negligently that her actions rise to the level of manslaughter in the second degree.
We’ll wait to see what the jury decides before we weigh in, but remember, her intent doesn’t matter when it comes to manslaughter. Intent will not factor into the decision, just like it wouldn’t in a drunk driving death case. We’ll report back once the jury has rendered a decision.