EXPLAINER - What will a judge weigh when sentencing Kim Potter

MINNEAPOLIS, (AP) -- A jury convicted a former Minneapolis police officer of mistaking her handgun for her Taser in the killing of Daunte Wright on Thursday. She will be sentenced February.

EXPLAINER - What will a judge weigh when sentencing Kim Potter


 

Kim Potter is facing the most serious charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment. Here are some possible outcomes of her sentencing:

THE CHARGES

A jury found Potter guilty in April 11th's murder of Wright, a Black motorist, after nearly 27 hours of deliberation. Prosecutors had to prove that Potter caused Wright's death by recklessly using a firearm in such a manner that death or great bodily injury to any person could reasonably be foreseeable.

Prosecutors had to prove that Potter caused Wright's death by her culpable negligence. This means that Potter "caused an unreasonable danger and consciously took a risk of causing death" or "great bodily harm."

WHAT SENTENCES ARE POSSIBLE?

According to Minnesota law, Potter, who was white, will only be sentenced on the most serious charge, first-degree murder. Because both charges against Potter stem from the same act and one victim,

Maximum sentence for this charge is 15 years. However, the state sentencing guidelines recommend a lesser sentence. The guidelines are for someone without a criminal record, such as Potter. They range from less than 6 years to around 8 1/2 years. The presumptive sentence is slightly more than seven years.

The defense stated that they would not seek any prison time, but the prosecution said they would seek a sentence beyond the guideline range. Judge Regina Chu must first find mitigating and aggravating factors before she can issue a sentence. Both sides must file written arguments.

POSSIBLE AGGRAVATING ACTORS

Prosecutors claim that Potter caused an aggravating factor in her case. She fired into her car and posed a greater danger than normal to other people, including Wright's passenger, as well as to Wright's couple who were driving their car after the shooting.

Alayna Albrecht - Payton, Wright's passenger, said to the court that she still has the effects from the fractured jaw she suffered in the accident. Denise Lundgren Wells (whose father was in Wright's car) said that her father had some health problems before the accident, but that the speed of the injuries after the accident occurred. He is now in his 80s, and in hospice care.

Prosecutors claim that Potter also abused her authority in the capacity of a police officer.

POSSIBLE MITIGATING FIXES

Paul Engh, defense attorney, stated that the defense would seek a "dispositional deviation" from sentencing guidelines.

A state statute allows for a mitigation of dispositional departure when guidelines recommend that a prison sentence be given, but a judge permits the sentence to "stay" meaning that the defendant is not sent to prison. Marsh Halberg, an attorney in Minneapolis, stated that the defendant is instead placed on probation, home monitoring or sent to the local prison. If conditions are not met, a defendant will be sent to jail.

Engh stated that Potter should be released on bail until sentence. It is clear that she regrets the incident and feels remorseful. She is not a threat to the public. She has made all her court appearances." Chu was not moved, and Potter was taken into custody once the verdicts had been read.

Halberg stated that the defense has a lot of work to do because Potter has no criminal record and is not remorseful. Defense can also argue that Potter's confinement as a police officer would be more harsh than others because she must keep her safe. Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted in George Floyd’s death, is currently in solitary confinement.

WHAT WILL CHU DO?

Minnesota's sentencing guidelines were designed to ensure consistent sentences that do not consider race or gender.

Chu will take into account both the arguments of each side and victim impact statements when deciding the final sentence. A pre-sentence investigation has been ordered by Chu. Potter is allowed to make a statement at her sentencing hearing, which is when judges typically look for evidence of remorse or acceptance of responsibility.

Halberg stated that it was unlikely that Chu would sentence Potter below the guideline level. He said: "We live with such a politicized climate right now for decisions." He predicted Chu will go beyond what guidelines suggest or sentence her to a higher range.

He said, "If you keep within the box as to the sentences being reasonable it's a pretty difficult thing to argue on appeal."

WHAT PERIOD WOULD A POTTER SERVE?

It doesn't matter what sentence Potter receives, it is presumed that in Minnesota, a defendant who displays good behavior will serve two thirds of their sentence in prison and the remainder on supervised release. This is commonly called parole.

This means that Potter would spend approximately four years behind bars and nine months in prison if she is sentenced to seven years. The rest of her time would be on supervised release. If she violates his parole conditions, she can be sent back to jail if she is on supervised release. She could spend 10 years in prison if she is sentenced to the maximum 15-year term.

After the jury returned its verdicts, Potter was transferred to Shakopee's state women's prison. Nicholas Kimball, a spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections stated that some cases, especially those with higher profile defendants, are transferred to the state prison while they await their sentencing.

Chauvin was also treated the same way. As he waited for his sentencing, he went straight to the maximum security prison of the state. After a judge found aggravating circumstances in Floyd's death, he was sentenced to 22 and 1/2 years.

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