A second week of testimony has begun in the trial of a Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black motorist, earlier this year, generating mass racial justice protests in the United States.
The prosecution called Dr Lorren Jackson, an assistant medical examiner, as its first witness on Monday. The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office reported the day after Wright’s death that he died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Jackson testified that the gunshot wound causing injuries to Wright’s heart and lungs is what caused his death. He said with these injuries, one can survive “seconds to minutes”.
“Far and away the gunshot wound to the chest was the most significant injury,” he said during testimony in which he walked jurors through Wright’s autopsy.
The court was shown graphic images of Wright’s body as the assistant medical examiner found it on the ground at the scene, with some medical equipment still attached from efforts to save Wright’s life and some dried blood from the gunshot wound. They also saw autopsy photos.
Kimberly Potter, 49, faces first- and second-degree manslaughter charges for the killing of Wright, which set off protests against police brutality in the Brooklyn Center community, north of Minneapolis, where it took place.
The ex-police officer, a 26-year veteran who resigned two days after the fatal shooting on April 11, 2021, said she mistook her firearm for a Taser.
Wright, 20, was killed after Potter and another officer pulled him over in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center for having expired licence plate tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.
Potter has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry maximum sentences of 15 and 10 years, respectively. Her lawyers say she will testify in her own defence.
Prosecutors spent the first week of testimony showing jurors police video of the traffic stop, in which an officer in training, Anthony Luckey, took the lead under Potter’s guidance.
The video showed the critical moments where Wright pulled away as Luckey was on the verge of handcuffing him, followed by Potter shouting, “I’ll tase you!” and “Taser, Taser, Taser!” and then shooting him once with her handgun.
Jurors saw Potter falling to the ground and wailing immediately afterwards, with other officers attempting to console her.
The defence has called the shooting a horrific mistake, but has also asserted that Potter would have been within her rights to use deadly force on Wright because he might have dragged a third officer, then-Sergeant Mychal Johnson, with his car.
But prosecutors have alleged in court filings that Potter “consciously and intentionally acted in choosing to use force on Daunte Wright and in reaching for, drawing, pointing, and manipulating a weapon”.
During opening statements last week, Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Erin Eldridge said Potter had flouted years of training.
“This case is about the defendant Kimberly Potter betraying her badge and betraying her oath and betraying her position of public trust,” Eldridge told the jurors. “Their duty to their badge and to the community is to protect life, not to take life.”
Wright’s killing helped drive mass protests across the US against police violence and racial discrimination against Black people.
It occurred during the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of murder after he kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, another unarmed Black man, for more than nine minutes during an arrest in May 2020.
“He had a new baby boy, a loving family and his whole adult life ahead of him,” Eldridge said in court last week, referring to Wright. “There is no do-over when you take a young man’s life.”