The judge who sentenced former white officer Kim Potter to two years in prison on Friday for killing black motorist Daunte Wright cited the hard work facing police — and Potter’s remorse — as justification for handing him a sentence. slight penalty.
Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu choked up as she described the difficulty of deciding a sentence for Potter, who said she intended to use her Taser but mistakenly fired her handgun to Wright’s chest as he tried to pull away from a traffic stop in April.
Wright’s family and attorneys angrily condemned Chu, who is Asian American, for falling far short of prosecutors’ recommendations. They pointed out that a black former officer convicted of shooting a white woman in 2017 in another Minnesota case did not get such mercy despite his expressions of remorse.
Katie Wright, who is white, told reporters Potter “murdered my son” and with that phrase, “the justice system murdered him again.” She accused Chu of being smitten with a performance that she said had been dragged on, and wondered why her own tears hadn’t been met with such a sympathetic response.
“That’s the problem with our justice system today,” Wright said. “White women tear trump – trump – justice. And I thought my white woman tears would be good enough because they’re real and genuine.
She joined a small group of protesters later Friday night chanting and shouting outside a downtown building they said included Chu’s home.
The phrase “white woman’s tears” has gained traction in the national reckoning of race, suggesting white people are weaponizing their emotions against people of color to protect their privileged positions.
Potter wept while testifying at her trial in December and sobbed again on Friday as she addressed Wright’s family directly in the courtroom.
“Katie, I understand a mother’s love and I’m sorry for breaking your heart,” Potter said. “My heart is broken for all of you.”
Wright’s family had asked for the maximum possible sentence. The state attorney general’s office initially presented a case for a harsher-than-normal sentence, then argued on Friday for the presumptive sentence of just over seven years recommended by state guidelines.
But Chu said Potter’s conduct over an otherwise exemplary 26-year career “cries” for a shorter sentence.
Chu has been a judge since his appointment in 2002 by the then governor. Jesse Ventura and previously worked in private practice and in the Attorney General’s office. Prior to Potter’s trial, she was the target of a protest by a Minneapolis man who entered a condo building he thought was his and then filmed himself making comments intended to pressure her to allow the trial to be broadcast.
Chu took time during Potter’s sentencing to explain his thinking. She said there were four reasons to send someone to prison: “punishment, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation”. But she said Potter didn’t need to be prevented or deterred from committing future crimes and didn’t need to be rehabilitated to become law-abiding. Only retribution to pay for the harm she caused applies, she said.
“In this case, a young man was killed because Officer Potter was reckless,” she said. “There should legitimately be some accountability.”
Chu said “the evidence is undisputed” that Potter had no intention of using his gun, and that made this case less serious than other recent police killings. The judge said Potter’s case was ‘distinguished’ from Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction last year for the murder of George Floyd, which led to a 22½-year sentence, or the homicide conviction involuntary conviction of Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, which resulted in a five-year sentence. – years of sentence.
“He’s not a cop convicted of murder for using his knee to corner a person for 9 1/2 minutes while out of breath,” Chu said. “This is not a cop convicted of manslaughter for intentionally drawing his gun and shooting his partner and killing an unarmed woman who approached his squad. He’s a cop who made a tragic mistake. She pulled out her gun thinking it was a Taser and ended up killing a young man.
And Potter’s need to make a split-second decision in a “chaotic, tense and rapidly changing” situation is a compelling mitigating factor, the judge said.
“For those who disagree and think a longer prison sentence is appropriate, however difficult it may be, please try to understand Mrs Potter’s situation. As the President once said Barack Obama, learning to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins,” the judge said.
“Officer Kimberly Potter was trying to do the right thing,” Chu continued. “Of all jobs in the public service, the police have the most difficult. They must make quick decisions in tense, changing and ever-changing circumstances. They risk their lives every day in public service. Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically. She never intended to hurt anyone.
On the face of it, it doesn’t look good that a white woman got a break when Wright’s family and a black officer – Noor – didn’t, said justice studies professor John Baker Criminal Justice at St. Cloud State University. Chu seemed more concerned about Potter than about Wright and his family, he said, agreeing that Chu seemed to only pay lip service to the Wright family’s expressions of pain.
Baker was unsure if Chu was trying to appease all sides on an extremely polarized issue, but said, “When you try to appease both sides, you don’t appease anyone.”
Find full AP coverage of the Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright