It’s just being reported that Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter will be charged with 2nd degree manslaughter by the District Attorney for Washington County:
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput just confirmed to me that he's filing a second-degree manslaughter charge against former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly A. Potter. He's issuing a press release shortly. #DaunteWright
— Matt McKinney (@_mattmckinney) April 14, 2021
I looked up Minnesota’s statute on 2nd degree manslaughter and this is how it reads in its entirety:
609.205 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.
A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both:
(1) by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another; or
(2) by shooting another with a firearm or other dangerous weapon as a result of negligently believing the other to be a deer or other animal; or
(3) by setting a spring gun, pit fall, deadfall, snare, or other like dangerous weapon or device; or
(4) by negligently or intentionally permitting any animal, known by the person to have vicious propensities or to have caused great or substantial bodily harm in the past, to run uncontrolled off the owner’s premises, or negligently failing to keep it properly confined; or
(5) by committing or attempting to commit a violation of section 609.378 (neglect or endangerment of a child), and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed thereby.
If proven by a preponderance of the evidence, it shall be an affirmative defense to criminal liability under clause (4) that the victim provoked the animal to cause the victim’s death.
Obviously number (1) is the one in which Potter will be prosecuted. She was clearly negligent, indeed, but I’m not sure they can adequately prove the portion of the law that says “consciously takes chances of causing death…” The prosecution will no doubt paint her in the worst possible light, however proving that she was consciously risking death when she was appeared to have the expectation that she was going to fire a taser seems like an uphill battle to me.
The prosecution might argue that she held the weapon for more than a few seconds and must’ve known that it was too heavy to be a taser. On the other hand, the defense will likely argue that she was watching the victim intently, instead of her weapon, to ensure her colleagues had removed their hands before firing, because she thought she was holding a taser.
As I suggested yesterday, involuntary manslaughter, which is simply causing a person’s death as a result of negligence, is likely where this will end up. But who knows if Potter will even get a fair trial these days.