After a brief delay over technical difficulties, Chu started the hearing by offering condolences to Wright’s family members, who were in virtual attendance. Special Assistant Hennepin County Prosecutor Imran Ali raised concerns about the trial’s start date, citing the amount of discovery and witness selection the state has ahead of it, but Chu signaled she would try to hold to the early December date.
“I think it’s to the benefit of everyone to try and expedite this case and try to come to a resolution or trial as quickly as reasonably possible,” Chu said.
Potter, 48, was dressed in a black shirt as she appeared from the office of her defense attorney, Earl Gray. She did not speak apart from acknowledging she consented to the hearing taking place virtually.
Potter, who is White, has not appeared in court since April 15, the day after she was charged with second-degree manslaughter for shooting Wright, who is Black, during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minn., the previous week. Potter had been a police officer for 26 years until she resigned over the shooting and has remained free on bond.
Monday’s hearing marked the latest development in a case that drew significant national attention just as the trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin played out 10 miles away. In the days after Wright’s death, suburban Brooklyn Center was rocked by days of protests that at times unspooled into violent clashes with police.
The shooting also prompted significant changes for the municipality, with the city council reorganizing its power structure by firing the city manager and turning control of the police department over to the mayor’s office.
The only footage from the April 11 incident that has been released to the public is a roughly one-minute video clip that came from Potter’s body-worn camera.
The clip, which Gannon played for the public the day after the shooting, shows two male officers approaching Wright’s car — one on either side. After a brief conversation, the officer on the driver’s side takes Wright out of the car and begins to handcuff him. As Wright begins to struggle, Potter approaches from behind to assist and is soon heard threatening to use a Taser.
In that footage, seven seconds elapse between Potter’s warning and her firing what was not a Taser but her service weapon. Seconds later, Potter yelled, “Holy s---, I shot him.”
Potter’s case has not seen sustained attention on the level of Chauvin’s, and Potter’s attorney has continually objected to the presence of cameras in the virtual courtroom for her pretrial appearances. At Monday’s hearing, the state once again asked for the trial to be subject to recording and broadcast, while Gray, Potter’s attorney, said he would object.
News media for months petitioned the presiding judge in Chauvin’s trial to allow cameras in the courtroom and succeeded; at least 23.2 million people tuned in for the April 20 verdict.
Lawyers for Wright’s family dispute the police claims that Potter fired a gun by mistake, arguing an officer with her level of experience and training should be able to distinguish a black service weapon from a bright yellow Taser, the latter of which is worn on the officer’s left hip, with the firearm on the right, per department guidelines.
Wright’s family has previously stated that anything short of a murder charge against Potter would be a disappointment to them.
If convicted, Potter’s second-degree manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, Potter would probably serve closer to four years, given her lack of criminal history.
That Potter is facing any charges is unusual because fatal shootings by police rarely result in them. Officers fatally shoot about 1,000 people a year, according to a Washington Post database. Most of these people are armed; Wright was not.
Most police shootings are deemed justified, meaning only a small portion of officers ever face charges.
Fatal force database: Almost 1,000 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year