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Kim Potter breaks down during final day of testimony

AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa

The trial of former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter in the death of Daunte Wright is close to wrapping up, with closing arguments scheduled for Monday. But in a rather unusual move, Potter took the stand to testify in her own defense on Friday. The testimony became quite emotional at points, with the judge deciding to offer potter a recess to compose herself when she broke down into tears. The defense made the most of the opportunity, continuing to assert that the shooting was simply a horrible accident, but the prosecution pressed Potter repeatedly about specific moments shown on police body camera footage, asking what she was doing with her hands at various points. They also asked her to verify and comment on things she said both before and after the fatal shot was fired. They certainly gave the jury plenty to think about. (CBS Minnesota)

The prosecution continues following a lunch break, as attorney Erin Eldridge continued to ask Potter questions about the shooting of Daunte Wright, particularly her immediate reaction. Potter remained emotional as she answered the questions, ultimately breaking down, “I’m sorry it happened.”

Eldridge asks Potter about what she said after shooting Wright, about her comments “I’m going to prison,” and “I just killed a boy.” Potter says she doesn’t remember saying those things.

Gray redirected Potter after that. Potter says the first time she saw the video was during a Zoom interview with Dr. Miller, who testified on Friday morning.

“Were you able to watch it?” Gray asks. “No,” Potter responds.

How the jury reacts to Potter’s testimony with all of the bodycam footage as a backdrop will almost certainly be a big factor in their decision. In the first seconds after the shooting, Potter is heard saying “I’m going to prison,” and “I just killed a boy.” The state is trying to play this up as an admission of guilt while the defense attempts to show how completely shocked and out of sorts she was after the weapon fired. It sounds to me as if the defense made the most of that moment since the officer clearly seems completely distraught.

For their part, the prosecution seemed to be trying to throw Potter off, barraging her with rapid-fire questions about minuscule details of what the footage showed. As she was approaching the window of Wright’s vehicle, the state highlighted a moment where her right hand drops to the holster of her service weapon. She was asked if she was unsnapping the holster at that time, but Potter said she had no recollection. Does it really sound all that unreasonable not to remember one action taken with one hand in the midst of such a chaotic scene that happened more than eight months ago?

As prosecutors continued to play more of the footage, Potter grew increasingly distressed. While being grilled about a piece of paper she had received from Wright and was apparently holding in her right hand, she finally broke down into tears. The judge ordered a recess, giving her time to collect herself. It’s tough to say how the jury will interpret that moment.

There was also some interesting testimony offered indicating that Potter had switched the sides of her body where she carried the gun and the Taser when new holsters had been issued. She could not recall when the switch happened (shouldn’t the PD have a record of new equipment being given out?) but it may lend more credence to the idea that she became confused in the heat of the moment and reverted to muscle memory in terms of where she carried each.

We also learned that Potter had never once before fired her gun at anyone or deployed her Taser during 26 years of service. She received regular training and had practiced doing both, but neither had been required in the line of duty.

Perhaps the best moment from the bodycam footage for the defense came in the two seconds before Potter fired. She said that the situation “just went chaotic” when Wright was back at the wheel and began to drive away. At that point, Potter and the new officer she was training that day had run Wright’s ID and found the outstanding warrant on a gun charge and a protection order involving a female. (There was a female in the car.) The decision had been made to arrest Wright on the warrant and check on the wellness of the passenger. When the “chaos” erupted, Potter can clearly be heard yelling “Taser! Taser! Taser!”

Will that seal the deal for the jury? In an admittedly chaotic moment such as that one, what on earth would possess an officer to shout “Taser” if they were knowingly drawing their gun and preparing to fire?

As we discussed earlier this week, none of this may wind up mattering in the end. Even if it’s established that Potter definitely made a mistake and believed she was deploying her Taser, the fact that the shot was fired while aiming at Daunte Wright may prove to be enough to satisfy the jury that a manslaughter charge is appropriate. But it sure doesn’t seem that way to me.