Jurors left the courthouse without a verdict Wednesday after 24 hours of deliberations in the manslaughter trial of the former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter, who fatally shot Daunte Wright while yelling “Taser.”
The jurors deliberated for more than nine hours Wednesday and did not submit any questions to the judge. The Minneapolis courthouse was eerily quiet on the third day of deliberations, with attorneys occasionally walking down the silent hallways.
Ted Sampsell-Jones, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota, said that while more than 20 hours of deliberations is not typical, the Potter case isn’t typical.
“It is a high-profile and highly politicized case, and the jurors are aware of that,” Sampsell-Jones told USA TODAY.
He added, “The length of deliberations, combined with the jury’s note yesterday, suggests that there’s a good chance we’re heading toward a hung jury and a mistrial. That doesn’t mean a mistrial is certain – jurors could still hash it out and reach unanimity – but it may be the most likely outcome at this point.”
WAS KIM POTTER RECKLESS?What jurors need to decide in Daunte Wright’s death
Deliberations were set to resume Thursday morning.
Jurors on Tuesday asked the judge for guidance on what to do if they cannot reach a consensus and requested the zip ties on Potter’s firearm be removed so the gun could be held outside of the evidence box.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Regina Chu re-read the jury instructions and granted the jurors’ request to remove the ties on the gun, which she said was secure and not loaded.
“You should discuss the case with one another and deliberate with a view toward reaching an agreement, if you can do so without violating your individual judgment,” Chu said.
Potter, who is white, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April death of Wright, who was Black, in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. The first-degree manslaughter charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine. The second-degree charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine.
Prosecutors say Potter “recklessly” handled her firearm and caused Wright’s death through her “culpable negligence.” Defense attorneys say Potter confused her firearm for her Taser but was justified in using deadly force because she was attempting to prevent Wright from injuring another officer.
Some elements of the manslaughter charges, however, are vague and leave much to jurors’ interpretation, several lawyers following the trial told USA TODAY.
Twelve jurors are deliberating in the case, six men and six women. Nine are white, two are Asian and one is Black, according to how the jurors self-identified to the court. Their ages range from 20s to 60s.
Prosecutors spent multiple hours presenting evidence about the differences between Tasers and firearms. Two witnesses held up a Taser in the courtroom and demonstrated how to discharge one. Several testified to the differences between the weapons, including weight, color, shape and grip, as well as to department policies on the dangers of confusing the weapons.
Throughout the trial, Chu has told jurors she hopes the trial will wrap up “by Christmas Eve.”