Lawyer, former prosecutor find issues with Potter sentencing

The Donlon Report

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — After an emotional day in court, former police officer Kim Potter was sentenced to two years in prison for shooting an unarmed man while trying to arrest him. But an experienced attorney and former prosecutor say the proceedings were flawed.

Friday, Judge Regina Chu choked up as she explained how difficult it was to determine Potter’s sentence. In bodycam video, Potter is heard saying she meant to grab her taser instead of her gun.

“It was one of the saddest cases I’ve had in my 20 years on the bench,” Chu said, adding that she received “hundreds and hundreds” of letters in support of Potter. “On the one hand, a young man was killed and on the other, a respected 26-year veteran police officer made a tragic error by pulling her handgun instead of her Taser.”

Potter was convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter in December for Daunte Wright’s death.

Attorney Trent Copeland said seeing the judge weep for a defendant was unusual.

“Everything about this seemed odd, incongruous with what I’ve normally seen and I just don’t think she got it right,” Copeland said on “The Donlon Report.”

Critics have also pointed out the sentence is also less than the state suggests. For someone with no criminal history, such as Potter, the state guidelines on first-degree manslaughter range from slightly more than six years to about 8 1/2 years in prison, with the presumptive sentence being just over seven years.

But former prosecutor Pat Brady was skeptical of the case since last year, and believes it should never have gone to trial. “The judge’s sentence today reflects that she probably agrees with that, too,” Brady said on “The Donlon Report.”

Defense attorney Paul Engh asked for probation only, arguing that Wright was the aggressor. He said the testimony of other officers on the scene showed it was a dangerous situation because Wright was attempting to drive away and Potter had the right to defend other officers.

“His life mattered, and that life was taken,” Prosecutor Matt Frank said before sentencing. “His name is Daunte Wright. We have to say his name. He was not just a driver. He was a living human being. A life.”

Frank also got emotional during the hearing, which Brady found unprofessional. “If I ever see a prosecutor cry again, I’m gonna yank their ticket,” he said.

Judge Chu explained the lesser sentence by saying Potter was “in the line of duty and doing her job in attempting to lawfully arrest Daunte Wright,” and that she was trying to protect another officer who could have been dragged and seriously injured if Wright drove away.

Potter’s team argued this case was analogous to the 1991 beating of Rodney King. They claimed it provided precedent that a lighter sentence was warranted if “the victim’s wrongful conduct contributed significantly to provoking the offensive behavior.”

Critics, including Wright’s family, blasted that argument as lacking context, since the King verdict was controversial and lead to new sentencing guidelines.

“Daunte Demetrius Wright, I will continue to fight in your name until driving while Black is no longer a death sentence,” said Wright’s mother, Katie Wright.

© 1998 - 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. | All Rights Reserved.

Trending on NewsNation

Elections 2022

More Elections 2022