Former Minnesota Police Officer Kim Potter was arrested and charged with second degree manslaughter in the shooting of Daunte Wright. The indictment provides for up to ten years’ imprisonment but also has a standard that could prove difficult to prosecute.
There is evidence that Wright’s shooting was a case of “gun confusion” when Potter fired what she thought was her taser. The case is very similar to the Oscar Grant shoot discussed in my previous column. This gun confusion case resulted in an involuntary manslaughter conviction.
Here is the Minnesota 609.205 regulation:
A person who causes the death of another person in any of the following ways is guilty of second degree manslaughter and can be sentenced to no more than ten years’ imprisonment or a fine of no more than $ 20,000, or both:
(1) through the culpable negligence of the person through whom the person poses an unreasonable risk and consciously takes the risk of causing death or great physical harm to another person; or
(2) by shooting another with a firearm or other dangerous weapon because the other is negligently believed to be a deer or other animal; or
(3) by setting a spring cannon, pit fall, fall, sling, or similar dangerous weapon or device; or
(4) by negligently or deliberately allowing any animal known to have malevolent tendencies or to have caused great or significant physical harm in the past to run away from the owner’s premises in an uncontrolled manner or negligently improperly detained; or
(5) by commissioning or attempting to violate Section 609.378 (neglect or endangerment of a child) and will not commit first, second, or third degree murder as a result.
If evidence is preponderant, it is an affirmative defense of criminal liability under paragraph (4) that the victim provoked the animal to cause the victim’s death.
Obviously, this case will turn on the first determination and whether Potter is “creative”[ed] an unreasonable risk, and deliberately [took] Chances of causing death or great physical harm to another. “
In the video, Potter can be heard screaming “Taser, Taser, Taser” before she swears and says, “Holy S ** t, I just shot him.” We have seen many cases of officers mistaking tasers for service weapons in combat.
The question is whether such a split-second failure poses a conscious risk of causing death. In the Grant case, the jury dismissed more serious charges in favor of the involuntary charge of manslaughter.
The Minnesota Supreme Court previously ruled in State v. Frost (1983):