OBSERVATIONS OF THE KIM POTTER TRIAL - PART THREE - the verdict
The jury in the Kim Potter trial took over 27 hours over four days to reach a verdict. They received the case on Monday, Dec. 20 after listening to closing arguments. They probably ate lunch before they started deliberating and had dinner brought in before they ended the day at around 6 p.m. and were taken to a hotel for sequestration until they resumed Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.
During the second day of deliberations, they sent two questions to the judge, which she answered. One question was what happens if we can’t all agree on a verdict. Judge Chu read them a jury instruction that encouraged them to keep trying. By this time they had been deliberating for about 11 hours. The second question was whether they could hold the gun in their hands. It had been zip tied to a cardboard box for safety reasons. The judge agreed to have a deputy cut the zip tie, so they could all handle the gun and then it was zipped back into the box. It is not surprising that they wanted to hold the gun, because the prosecutor in the closing suggested that they do that, so they could feel the difference between the gun and the Taser.
Speculation was rampant about the possibility for a hung jury at this point, but then why would they want to feel the gun in their hands. Anyway, the day ended with no verdict and the next day, Wednesday, there was not a peep from the jury. No questions at all.
Finally on Thursday, at around 1:30 p.m., I received an alert that the jury had completed deliberating, and the “outcome” would be announced within the hour. I sat in front of the seal of the State of Minnesota, which is what the live stream is focused on when the court is not in session and waited with bated breath. The wording of the alert that the “outcome” would be announced suggested that there might not be a verdict after all. So, I was prepared for that. I was also pessimistic about the chances of a guilty verdict on both charges because of the length of time it took for the jury to reach a decision. Generally, the longer it takes the better it is for the defendant.
Finally, the camera in the courtroom came on and we could see Judge Chu sitting on her raised bench. When all the parties arrived at their appointed spots, the judge instructed the clerk to collect the jury members. Everyone stood when the jury arrived and took their seats at which time the Judge sat down and asked the jury if they had reached a verdict. The foreperson said yes and handed the sheet to the bailiff who handed the paper to the judge. She took her sweet time in reviewing the contents, raising the blood pressure of all who was waiting in anticipation (including myself) and finally spoke, in her very smooth and calming voice. “In the case of State v. Kimberly Potter . . . on the charge of first-degree manslaughter, the jury finds the defendant (pause) GUILTY.”
The camera pans to Kim Potter’s face and there is absolutely no response.
“On the charge of second-degree manslaughter, the jury finds the defendant GUILTY.”
Again, no reaction from Kim Potter. What she does next is very revealing. She runs her hands up behind her neck and unclasps a necklace chain and removes whatever was hanging around her neck under her shirt. After she does that, there is a short pause and then she gestures the sign of the cross on her chest.
This reaction by Kim Potter was in stark contrast to the whimpering, deeply emotional and apologetic person who took the stand less than a week before. She seemed resigned to the verdict; the conclusion that she predicted on the day of the shooting when, in between screaming “oh, my God,” she bluntly stated, “I’m going to jail.”
After her attorneys tried to persuade Judge Chu not to send her to jail, all to no avail, she was handcuffed and walked stoically out the courtroom to her next home for the foreseeable future. The sentencing will take place on Feb. 18, 2022. So, orange will be Kim’s new black for now.
I am pleased that she will be held accountable for Daunte Wright’s killing. It would have sent a terrible message to law enforcement if the defense’s argument that this was just an accident and not culpable behavior prevailed. A 26-year veteran of the police force, who had been trained on the proper use of force and use of Tasers and guns should not have gotten away with such an egregious mistake. And while the issue of racism never entered the courtroom, it was definitely front-and-center in most of the world’s mind because I do not believe for one second that a white person would have been shot under the same circumstances.
As 2021 comes to an end, I am heartened to see that three Black men have received justice, although far too late for them – George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Daunte Wright. I can’t believe how many hours I’ve devoted to watching all those trials from gavel to gavel, withstanding the viewing of horrific videos of the killing of innocent Black men, and waiting with anticipation as juries do heroic work behind closed doors, reaching difficult decisions. I’ve been critical of the jury system because of its history of systemic racism, but this year we may be seeing the beginning of a much-needed change. I think the uprising of the Black Lives Movement has helped to shine light on the racism in policing and I hope the trend toward a more equal and just society continues so that I don’t have to continue watching these kinds of trials.