A jury found Kim Potter guilty: What happens next?


(NewsNation Now) — Former suburban Minnesota police Officer Kim Potter was placed in handcuffs Thursday after jurors convicted her of manslaughter in connection with the death of Daunte Wright.

Potter’s sentencing won’t happen immediately, however. Attorneys on both sides will have time to prepare their arguments in favor of the sentence they’d like to see Potter recieve. A probation officer also will conduct what is called a pre-sentence investigation and gather information about Potter’s life and history that could be relevant at sentencing.

Meanwhile, Potter will remain in custody until her Feb. 18 sentencing hearing. At that time, Judge Regina Chu could order Potter to serve prison time for killing Wright, a Black man whom Potter shot after she said she mistook her handgun for her Taser.

Before that decision can be made, however, Potter’s attorneys, Earl Gray and Paul Engh, have said they intend to file a motion seeking “dispositional departure.”

That means Potter’s lawyers will ask for a sentence — possibly probation — that is less than the minimum set out in the state’s sentencing guidelines, Minnesota criminal defense attorney Michael J. Brandt said.

Brandt is a Minnesota State Bar Association certified specialist in criminal law and is not involved in Potter’s case.

“They’re going to ask the judge to … not send her to prison but put her on probation,” Brandt said.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, intend to seek a sentence that exceeds the maximum set forth in the state’s guidelines. As of Thursday, Potter faced a potential 74-to-103 months (or about 8.5 years) in prison for the most serious offense, first-degree manslaughter.

Those sentencing guidelines are different than the often-cited potential 15-year maximum that Potter faces under Minnesota law. It’s those guidelines, however, that the judge will refer to at sentencing, Brandt said.

“If the judge decides there are aggravating factors, then the judge can give a sentence longer than 103 months.”

Those factors, as well as details that lend themselves in Potter’s favor, could come up as part of Potter’s pre-sentence investigation.

“It’s basically a report that details to the judge by a probation officer facts about Ms. Potter, her background, her prior record or lack thereof, education, family history — all about her life,” Brandt said.

On the day of sentencing, the judge will hear arguments from both sides about the sentence they believe is appropriate, Brandt said. Victims, in this case likely Wright’s friends and family, also will have a chance to provide impact statements detailing how the situation has affected them.

Potter’s attorneys could similarly choose to have the former police officer’s friends and family provide statements, Brandt said.

After a final round of arguments from both sides, Potter will have the opportunity to speak on her own behalf, though it isn’t a requirement.

From there, the judge is expected to issue a sentence.

“The court will give the sentence right then and there,” Brandt said. “Obviously, the court will have considered this well ahead of time.”

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