(AP) — A Minnesota
judge ruled Monday that a manslaughter case against a former suburban Minneapolis police
officer who fatally shot 20-year-old Black motorist Daunte Wright
can move forward, and she set a December trial
Former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter
, who is white, will be tried on December 6, barring any future scheduling conflicts, Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu said during a pretrial hearing.
“I find probable cause to support the charge against the defendant, Ms. Potter,” Chu said.
Potter, who is charged with second-degree manslaughter, appeared via videoconference with her attorney, Earl Gray, and sat some distance behind him in his office. She looked straight ahead at the video screen and had little reaction during the hearing, saying, “Yes, your honor,” when the judge asked if the hearing could go forward via videoconference.
Wright was killed during a struggle with police following a traffic stop on April
11. The former Brooklyn Center police chief believes Potter intended to use her Taser instead of her handgun, as evidenced by body
camera video showing her shouting "Taser!" multiple times before firing. Protesters and Wright's family have disputed that the shooting
was accidental, arguing that an experienced officer knows the difference.
The shooting occurred during the trial of Derek Chauvin
, a white former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder for pressing his knee against George Floyd
's neck while the Black man claimed he couldn't breathe.
According to police, Wright was pulled over for expired tags, but they attempted to arrest him after discovering an outstanding warrant for his failure to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and had a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.
Second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota does not require intent. The charge, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison, can be applied when a person is suspected of causing a death
through “culpable negligence” that creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances to cause a death.
As the hearing began on Monday, Chu acknowledged Wright's family and friends
were present and expressed her condolences to them. After ruling that there was probable cause to continue the case, Chu set deadlines for court filings, stating that it would benefit everyone if the case was resolved quickly.
Prosecutor Imran Ali stated that the Dec. 6 trial date works for the time being, but there may be conflicts with expert witness
schedules once they are determined.
“My goal is to keep that December 6 trial date if at all possible,” Chu said, adding, “If you need to schedule any type of plea hearing — if that should happen — I’m always available for that.”
Unlike many states, cameras are not routinely allowed during most Minnesota court proceedings, according to Ali. Chauvin's murder trial was the first Minnesota criminal trial to be broadcast live on television, with the judge allowing the broadcast due to high interest and pandemic
restrictions that limited courtr
When Potter resigned shortly after the shooting, Brooklyn Center was on the verge of firing her, as was the city's police chief, after the City Council fired the city manager.
The Brooklyn Center City Council approved a resolution on Saturday calling for sweeping changes in policing, such as creating a new division of unarmed civilian employees to handle non-moving traffic violations and limiting situations in which officers can make arrests. The city attorney and mayor have stated that adopting the resolution commits the city to change, but it is not a final action.