MN attorney general should take over prosecution of officer who killed Daunte Wright

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MN attorney general should take over prosecution of officer who killed Daunte Wright

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Minnesotans have kind hearts and good intentions. But if kind hearts and good intentions were enough, Daunte Wright would be alive today.

The horrific murder by Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter is the latest agonizing evidence that the lives of Minnesota blacks will never matter without all Minnesotans acting in a sustainable and committed manner – especially the 80 percent of us who only by the color of our white skin are protected from the violence of the police.

Today we urge all Minnesotans to take one single action: Call on Governor Tim Walz to turn the prosecution of Kim Potter over to Attorney General Keith Ellison, who the people of Minnesota have elected to prosecute crimes against the people of our state.

No other lawyer in Minnesota is adequate.

Hennepin District Attorney Mike Freeman says he is unable to credibly prosecute a police officer in his own district.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, who has donated his legal services to the Minnesota Association of Chiefs of Police for three decades, is in no way accountable to voters in Hennepin County, where the Brooklyn Center community grieves over tear gas. (Orput is also credibly accused of cartoonish unprofessionalism, including public comments on “thugs” who “deserve to be caged”.)

With Freeman handing the money over, no lawyer in Minnesota other than Attorney General 1 – at the ballot box – is accountable to the people of Brooklyn Center. No other lawyer can credibly pursue Potter’s assassination of Daunte Wright.

But make no mistake: the fact that we have to ask the governor of our state to insist on an accountable prosecutor is an amazing charge against our judicial system.

A cascade of failure

At every moment since Kim Potter shot Daunte Wright, the arbitrary prosecution of the crime has illustrated the systematic failure of our criminal law.

Initially, Freeman referred the charges to Orput, referring to an apparently informal, year-long agreement between the five members of the Urban County Attorneys’ Association. According to Freeman, he and his district attorneys would refer cases “relating to the use of lethal force by the police” outside of their own jurisdiction. The basic principle? “To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

These district attorneys – all elected by citizens of their districts to evaluate police evidence and prosecute crimes – apparently agreed that none of them could plausibly be taken as objective when their own district police officers were shown police evidence from their own district, to have committed crimes.

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We elect Minnesota County attorneys to objectively evaluate the evidence presented to them by the police and then investigate the crimes justified by that evidence – regardless of who that evidence implies. That’s what we choose as prosecutors. If we cannot trust their assessment of evidence in the event of police misconduct, why should we definitely trust their assessment of evidence?

If Minnesota county attorneys cannot interpret evidence from their own police departments while pursuing crimes in their own counties, they cannot do their job at all. Freeman’s refusal to avoid “the occurrence of a conflict of interest” is a classic gaffe: an accidental acknowledgment of an intolerable truth.

In any event, the district attorney’s agreement seems to be more heeded in the violation. Mike Freeman was not concerned about a conflict of interest arising when:

The fact that the charges against this case have been turned over to someone who volunteers to defend the police force is an example of a system failure – not a strange deviation that should be excused in this case.

The way we understand and implement public safety ideas needs to be radically changed. It is an emergency. Inaction is complicity. And we, all Minnesotans, have to help.

Call Governor Walz now at 651-201-3400. Call on Governor Walz to turn the prosecution of Kim Potter’s crimes over to Attorney General Keith Ellison, the only Minnesota attorney who can credibly seek justice for Daunte Wright.

You shouldn’t have to make this appeal to ask for fair law enforcement, but justice requires it.

The attorney general shouldn’t have to take on this case, but accountability requires it.

Daunte Wright shouldn’t be dead today, but Officer Kim Potter killed him.

This is the world we live in, Minnesota. And without your help, things will never change. Call the governor. You’re welcome.

Do you remember Freeman is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending unjust law enforcement practices in the Hennepin District Public Prosecutor’s Office. Follow them on Twitter at @recallfreeman.

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