Paul Engh requested a mistrial. He criticized the "sordid photos" that he claimed were not relevant and were repeatedly shown to inflame jury sympathies.
These details and secondary witnesses' testimony, while they may not affect the verdict of the jury, are part of a larger-picture prosecution strategy. It aims to convict Kim Potter of manslaughter and send her to prison for longer than she could otherwise.
Minnesota judges must adhere to state sentencing guidelines. The range allows for little flexibility and requires them to justify their reasoning. Prosecutors must convince a judge that aggravating circumstances warrant a longer sentence if they want to extend the range. Matthew Frank, the prosecutor, said that he was doing this.
Frank and his co-prosecutors presented a stream o officers, emergency medical workers, and civilians on Thursday. They gave detailed details, accompanied sometimes by graphic videos and photos about what occurred between Potter shooting Wright at paramedics and declaring him dead at the spot where Potter and others tried to arrest the 20 year-old during a traffic stop.
Potter and Anthony Luckey, the officer she was training stopped Wright on April 11, for expired license tags, and an air freshener hanging from the mirror. Video evidence and testimony show that Wright tried to get out of the car, but was stopped by officers for expired license tags and an air freshener hanging from his mirror.
Potter and her lawyers claim that she intended to use her Taser against Wright, but instead she accidentally grabbed her gun.
Thursday's testimony was largely focused on what occurred after Potter shot Wright. He then drove off and crashed into a car just a block away. Multiple defense objections were made, with the defense arguing that some of the images and testimony were repetitive and inflamatory.
Judge Regina Chu was told by Engh that Potter's thoughts were the problem. She yelled "Taser Taser Taser!" and pulled the trigger.
Engh stated that the state had spent an "inordinate amount of time presenting pretrial evidence" about the crash. He said it was the result of Wright's speeding, and that Wright was severely injured. He stated that he didn't see any evidence pointing to the proof of guilt, but evidence of "sordid pictures" and prejudicial impacts that were of little relevance.
Frank countered by saying that the state wants a longer sentence and that the evidence is relevant to show that Potter's reckless actions created a risk to others. He claimed that Wright was still able to drive his car and that she had shot him while she was still trusting her as an officer. He blamed her and Wright's girlfriend, as well as an elderly passenger in the car that was coming towards them, were both seriously hurt. Also, the state claims that Potter's actions put at risk Luckey and another officer involved in the arrest.
Wright struck the car with Wright's driver but he wasn't injured. Wright's wife testified that the crash caused her husband's decline in health. The testimony of her daughter backed this up. Wright's girlfriend stated that Wright still feels the effects of her fractured jaw. The jury saw a picture of Wright's mouth bleeding.
Officers who raced to the crash site and video evidence suggested that Potter's actions may have put them at risk. They also delayed efforts to save Wright's lives. The officers told the jury that they didn't initially know Wright was dead and weren't certain what they were dealing. They claimed that Wright could have been armed because they kept him in the car for 8 1/2 minutes and then pulled him out of his car to try to revive him.
Prosecutors must prove that Potter was reckless in order to win the first-degree manslaughter charge. They must prove culpable negligence for the second-degree manslaughter charge. Both charges do not require proof she intended to murder. Guidelines for sentencing call for seven years, two months and four years in prison for the first offense and three years and six months for the second.
To get a sentence exceeding eight years and seven month, the prosecution must prove aggravating conditions -- also known as "Blakely Factors" in a 2004 Minnesota Supreme Court case. On the most serious charge, the maximum sentence is 15 years. They have not yet said how many additional prison sentences they will seek if Potter is convicted.
Similar proceedings were followed in the case against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted in this year's trial for second-degree murder in George Floyd's death. Frank and the other prosecutors asked Judge Peter Cahill to extend the sentence beyond the recommended 12 1/2 years under the sentencing guidelines. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years by the judge. He stated that prosecutors had established that Chauvin abused authority and treated Floyd with cruelty. Also, several children were present at the crime and that Chauvin knew that kneling on Floyd's neck could be dangerous.