Daunte Wright Shooting Trial: VERDICT: Guilty Both Manslaughter Counts

Hey folks,

Still not really back to work full-time, but wanted to drop news of the verdict in the Kim Potter trial here to share with the Law of Self Defense community:  guilty of both manslaughter in the first degree and manslaughter of the second degree. Potter was immediately taken into custody.

I’ll have a lengthier analysis of the verdict and how we got here in a more substantive post tomorrow, circumstances permitting.

Until then:


You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.

Know the law so you’re hard to convict.

Stay safe!


Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

Law of Self Defense Platinum Protection Program

IMPORTANT:  We encourage civil and reasoned debate among Members in the comments.  That said, comments reflect the opinion (legal or otherwise) of those who authored them only, and no comment should be assumed to reflect the opinion of, or be assumed to be shared by, Attorney Andrew F. Branca, except those authored by Attorney Branca.  Law of Self Defense LLC does not systemically moderate comments for legal correctness, and we suggest that all comments be viewed with an appropriately critical eye and a grain of salt.

Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. Nothing in this content establishes an attorney-client relationship, nor confidentiality. If you are in immediate need of legal advice, retain a licensed, competent attorney in the relevant jurisdiction.

Law of Self Defense © 2021
All rights reserved.

30 thoughts on “Daunte Wright Shooting Trial: VERDICT: Guilty Both Manslaughter Counts”

  1. Like I said at the beginning of the trial: I understand how a jury could find her guilty of second degree. I don’t think I would have, but I get it. First degree makes no sense to me. The states argument for the underlying crime was insane. There’s no way to accept that argument unless you just hate cops and disagree with the concept of policing. But such are Minnesota juries, apparently.

    1. I think the verdict left a lot of informed defense attorneys stunned. While some thought second degree manslaughter might be a conviction based on emotion, the notion that this was essentially a form of premeditated homicide is so ludicrous as to make me wonder if people have overtly rejected reason as a virtue.

      In particular the inclusion of first degree manslaughter has made this jury as despicably stupid as the one over OJ Simpson and Rodney King’s brutalization. I usually consider doxing a horrible thing, but in this case, I actually hope for it. These people should be shamed till the day she gets out of jail.

      Disgusting…totally disgusting.

  2. If you are a police officer in one of these counties, you must be looking for employment elsewhere and trying to reduce any interaction with the public and I don’t blame you one bit.

  3. Something I can’t understand at all. Forget about the facts of the case for a second… Let’s just assume she really is guilty of first-degree manslaughter. I don’t think she is, but please just pretend.

    WHY on earth then is she ALSO guilty of second degree manslaughter and required to serve a sentence for both crimes? One person is dead. There was one man slaughtered by one person. But two manslaughter convictions for it.

    It just seems insane that she’s literally punished twice for the same crime. I don’t see how on earth that can actually be constitutional.

    1. It isn’t. Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another without malice aforethought, express or implied. It can be voluntary or involuntary, and if involuntary it can be a homicide that results from the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to felony, or from the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner. If the act that was the proximate cause of death was unlawful then the proximate cause of death cannot be a “lawful act in an unlawful manner,” and if the act that was the proximate cause of death was a lawful act in an unlawful manner then the proximate cause of death cannot be an “unlawful act.”

      The fact that the jury found the defendant guilty of both lawful act manslaughter and unlawful act manslaughter is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the prosecution did not prove either type of involuntary manslaughter “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It is a matter of common sense, if the jury believes the prosecution has proven one type of involuntary beyond a reasonable doubt then the jury cannot believe the prosecution has proven the other type of involuntary manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. The conviction on both counts invalidates the verdict and certainly indicates that the jury did not understand what law to apply to the facts (the jury instructions violated the Constitutional due process rights of the defendant).

  4. Andrew, I wish you would get a copy of the written jury instructions given to the jury and do an analysis on them. I don’t believe the jury was properly instructed and I believe the prosecution was allowed to improperly instruct the jury in closing argument.

    Appears to me that the common law, the statutes defining the two counts and the predicate misdemeanor, and case law State v. Frost 342 N.W.2d 317 all require that the defendant have the intent to do the act and that the jury was incorrectly instructed that the prosecution did not have to prove intent.

    I wasn’t surprised at the verdict at all after hearing the prosecutor in closing argument keep hammering to the jury that the state didn’t have to prove the essential elements of the offenses.

    1. Until and unless someone on the jury comes forth to explain this verdict, the factors that led this jury to a verdict of guilty is going to remain a secret. It would seem that either the jury didn’t grasp (or perhaps want to grasp) the law and the definitions of reckless, or they didn’t believe she suffered from slip and capture (action error) and consciously drew her gun and shot Wright, all the while knowing it was unjustified recklessness (as subjectively defined by the jury).

      Given that folks of this kind of temperament aren’t tolerant of pushback criticism I doubt any of them will come forth to explain their actions. Too bad, because since this jury deserves a spot in the museum of the nation’s most egregious juries in modern history.

  5. Andrew: I have a question. I notice from the posts over at Legal Insurrection that a lot of folks seem to think that cops have some special privilege to use deadly force beyond those of a private citizen. My understanding is that cops have a special dispensation when it comes to the element of innocence. They are duty bound to get involved and may be the first aggressor. They likewise do not have a duty to retreat, even in states where private citizens would have such duty. But all the other elements of self-defense, imminence, proportionality, and reasonableness, apply to police as well as civilians. But perhaps the law in MN is different in this regard?

    My other question has to do with the distinction of pleading self-defense versus pleading a mistake. Much was made of Kim Potter having a right to use deadly force in defense of the other officers, even though she admitted (and the video made clear) that she used deadly force by mistake, and not intentionally in self-defense. Does arguing that she acted by mistake, but otherwise, would have had a right to use lethal force intentionally in self-defense hold water? Does it bolster her defense of mistake?

    1. “I notice from the posts over at Legal Insurrection that a lot of folks seem to think that cops have some special privilege to use deadly force beyond those of a private citizen.”

      I hope Andrew answers your questions, but my understanding is he has a lot going on right now. In the meantime, police officers do have a “special privilege” to use deadly force in their official capacity that is different than the privilege of a private citizen, but I wouldn’t necessarily use the term “beyond” to describe it. A police officer’s “special privilege” to use deadly force comes from a use of force law that applies only to law enforcement officers using deadly force in their official capacity, and that is what makes it a “special privilege.” It isn’t a lot different than a citizen’s privilege to use deadly force, but it does come from a different statute and is therefore a “special privilege” not available to private citizens unless the private citizen has been commanded or authorized to use deadly force by a police officer.

      Your other question is more complicated, but the short answer is no—it does not “bolster her defense of mistake.” It is a completely different absolute defense, but it was a defense that was supported by evidence in the record though, and there was absolutely no evidence in the record to disprove it. The prosecution’s use of force expert’s conclusionary legal opinion that the use of force was not warranted at all is not evidence, and the court should have instructed the jury to disregard the conclusion of law by a person who was not certified to testify as a legal expert.

      Potter raised the absolute defense of accident, and the judge incorrectly instructed the jury that accident was not a defense to the charges. A prejudicial error that violated Potter’s Constitutional right to equal protection and due process of law. Minnesota Supreme Court case law makes it clear that accident is an absolute defense to involuntary manslaughter. The history of accident as an absolute defense to a homicide charge goes as far back as English records will reach. I have actually read cases from the 1350’s where accident was an absolute defense to a homicide charge. Very common in the 1300’s for homicides in self defense to be ruled to be accidental homicides (the defendant did nothing more than stand his ground and hold his knife or sword in front of him for protection, and the homicide victim, in a fit of rage, ran up and impaled himself upon the blade). You really didn’t want to raise self defense as a defense to a homicide charge in the 1300’s because self defense wasn’t an absolute defense to a felony homicide charge at that time in history.

    1. Thanks. I had checked that link a few days ago and the instructions hadn’t been posted yet.

      The instructions that were given are repugnant to the United States Constitution, the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Statutes, and the English Statutes, the Acts of the English Parliament, and the Common Law of England adopted by the Minnesota Legislature by Statute as the Law of the Land in Minnesota. Small wonder that the Judge and the Jury, acting as a Lynch Mob, found Potter guilty of the charges. Lynch mobs usually do exactly that.

      1. Big O,

        For the last day or so I’ve been reading the instructions and cross checking them against what the defense originally requested and case law. So far, my biggest objections are that many terms and their distinctions are left legally undefined, some phrasing is false or very misleading, and other parts lack a required element. As a whole its NOT an instruction that guides the jury step by step on how to produce a verdict according to the law, its mostly an outline repeating phrasing from some case law and but not others.

        I’m going to make a list of notations. The appeal will likely be ineffective IF it is based on a glaring error in the Jury instructions, but I am not a lawyer so who knows.

        Mark Hamilton

        1. I believe errors in jury instructions that mis-state the law are the most common reason that most verdicts are overturned. Here is the biggest error in the jury instructions: “Whether the Defendant’s apparent decision to use a Taser was reasonable or appropriate is not a defense to the charges in this case.” This is a plain misstatement of the law and it violated Potter’s Constitutional right to equal protection and due process of law. That an act was accidental or unintentional is a complete defense to a criminal offense based on that act. One cannot negligently handle or use a firearm or commit a criminal homicide with a firearm unless they know they are actually handling or using a firearm, and one cannot consciously disregard the risk to the homicide victim that the handling or using a firearm creates if one does not know that he is actually handling or using a firearm.

          There is evidence that Potter made a decision to use a Taser and there is no evidence that she did not make a decision to use a Taser. If the decision to use a Taser was reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances (and it certainly was), it is most definitely an absolute defense to the manslaughter charges.

          Here is what the Minnesota Supreme Court has to say about second degree involuntary manslaughter and the defense of accident (mistake of fact): As Zupetz indicates, second degree manslaughter under section 609.205(1) involves an element of awareness of the risk by the defendant. Stated differently, the statute requires proof of an objective element and a subjective element, the objective element being gross negligence and the subjective element being recklessness in the form of an actual conscious disregard of the risk created by the conduct. This interpretation is based on the wording of the statute itself and, further, is in accord with the view espoused by the drafters of the Model Penal Code that liability for manslaughter should not be premised on “inadvertence to risk” (that is, disregarding of a risk of which one should be aware) but on a conscious disregarding of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of which one actually is aware. Model Penal Code §§ 210.3, Comment 4 and 210.4 Comment 1 (1980). This would also apply to first degree involuntary manslaughter under section 609.20(2).

          There was a high profile case in California a year or two ago where the defendant was found not guilty of possession and homicide charges base on the defense that he did not know he was in possession of a firearm and did not know that he was handling a firearm. The defendant was an illegal alien who actually had no legal right to have possession of a firearm, or to use a firearm. He was acquitted of both the possession and murder or manslaughter charges on the grounds that there was no intent to possess or handle a firearm because he didn’t actually know that he was in possession of or handling a firearm.

          Jury instruction are the most important part of the case and it is where most defense attorneys fail their clients. The defense counsel should put the entire defense into the proposed jury instruction and protect the right to appeal the denial of the proposed jury instruction.

          1. I’m sure you’re correct. If it is apparent in her conduct that is had an intention (a state of mind) that is inconsistent with her shooting him, is strong evidence that she was not conscious of what she held and fired, or the consequences thereof.

            I’m still going through the instructions, but one might compare it to the Rittenhouse jury instructions. Those jury instructions are very impressive, with full and plain English explanations of concepts, procedures, etc. Very long (38 pages) but clearly superior to that of this trial.

            I’ll comment further as I become more informed.

    2. Thanks for the link to the jury instructions. Actually, they read pretty straightforward to me, but just from discussing this case with other folks, I can tell people are easily confused. The instructions could have been more detailed and explanatory. I really don’t like the way it properly states that recklessness requires a conscious dangerous act and deliberately ignoring the danger, but then following it almost immediately with the sentence about the state not having to prove she intended to kill the victim. These refer to two completely different sorts of intent. It is simply stating that, if the state did have to prove intent to kill, we would be talking about an element of the crime of murder, not manslaughter. But that a different sort of intent is required for manslaughter.

      To me, it boils down to either the jury was biased, the jury was fearful, or the jury was just not too bright. As Andrew quipped, a jury is unpredictable and sometimes they have “the I Q of a thermometer.” If they really were incapable of understanding these straightforward instructions, then, in this case I would add “celsius.”

  6. A issue that occurred to me because of this case is the following. In some situations (depending on the state) you are not allowed to use deadly force if you have a completely safe avenue of retreat. Are there also cases where you are obligated to use a less deadly weapon like a taser instead of a gun if it is available to you and would (at least arguably) be equally effective?

    1. “Are there also cases where you are obligated to use a less deadly weapon like a taser instead of a gun if it is available to you and would (at least arguably) be equally effective?”


      Rule 16 of the historic 26 Commandments of Dueling provided that the challenged party shall have his choice of weapons. When the law justifies your use of deadly force for any purpose, you have your choice of weapons.

    2. Based on Andrew’s lectures about the distinction between deadly and non-deadly force, the requirement of proportionality simply allows, but does not require, deadly-force in response to a deadly-force attack. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt any of the self-defense laws in the various states requires a non-deadly response to a deadly force threat. Certainly not here in California. Of course, this also has to be subject to that mushy and malleable requirement that it be reasonable, so, no doubt, a prosecutor would likely bring up and try to use the fact that you had a taser and did not use it but instead went to the gun. That is, try to figure out what 12 more-or-less randomly selected nitwits think is “reasonable” and good luck with that.

      1. I don’t think tasers and such were designed to be used as defensive weapons. When you need a weapon to defend your life and limb, common sense dictates that you use the most effective one available to you at the time of the need. An LC-9 Ruger is a pain in the ass enough to carry around, if I am going to carry anything else it is going to be extra mags. Right now there is something like 1,,500,000 aggrivated assaults and 15,000 criminal homicides a year, and only about 500 justified homicides in self defense. The sooner this country reverses those figures the better off we will be. Wouldn’t take but a year to completely eliminate violent crime in America.

  7. “The jury verdict is inherently inconsistent and thus void. If the jury found the defendant guilty on count 2, then the jury cannot find the defendant guilty on count 1, and if the jury found the defendant guilty on count 1, then the jury cannot find the defendant guilty on count 2. The jury cannot, as a matter of law, find that the prosecution has proven both counts beyond a reasonable doubt because a finding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt on one count prevents a finding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt on the other count.”

    I posted this over on the Legal Insurrection site, but I thought I might as well bring it over here too. To paraphrase what I said, if the jury found the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Potter was “aware of the risk” of using a firearm on count 1, then the jury cannot find that the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Potter was not “aware of the risk” of using a firearm on count 2. BOTH CANNOT BE TRUE. THE PROSECUTION DIDN’T PROVE EITHER ONE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT AND THE INCONSISTENT VERDICTS ARE PROOF OF THAT.

  8. guilty as charged

    It doesn’t matter how inocente you are; it doesn’t matter if you have the best lawyer, you can get a weak judge, a looney tunes jury, and a prosecutor who doesn’t have a single fact to prosecute with but if he can talk long enough about nothing, he can confuse the jury into a conviction. What used to be a 10% failure rate for the average citizen on being wrongly convicted and a 0% for the police with limited immunity has today changed. Pull your gun and you will probably go to prison. If the police doesn’t get out of the cruiser, he/she will probably not be charged.

    1. “It doesn’t matter how inocente you are; it doesn’t matter if you have the best lawyer, ”

      Potter obviously did not have the “best lawyer.” There was no motion to dismiss the charge of lawful act involuntary manslaughter (count 2 of the amended complaint) for lack of probable cause even though there was no evidence in the complaint to support probable cause to believe the homicide was unlawful (without justification or excuse), which is an essential element of any felony homicide. And the motion to dismiss the charge of unlawful act involuntary manslaughter (count 1 of the amended complaint) completely disregarded the legal basis on which both counts should have been dismissed sua sponte (lack of probable cause to believe the homicide was unlawful), and asked the judge to determine an issue that was solely within the province of the jury (determine whether the conduct was “reckless”), a determination that need not be made at all unless there is probable cause to believe the category of the homicide was felony rather than justified homicide or excusable homicide.

      As a result of not having “the best lawyer” and having Chu for a judge, Potter was unconstitutionally tried and convicted of two mutually exclusive crimes. A conviction of unlawful act involuntary manslaughter precludes a conviction of lawful act involuntary manslaughter for the same homicide, and visa versa. It is illogical and legally impossible for a jury to find that a prosecutor has proven Potter guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on both counts. Such a finding is prima facie evidence that the prosecution did not prove Potter guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on either count.

  9. My problem with the verdict is with the elements of first and second degree manslaughter for this case. Under Minn. law, first degree manslaughter requires the reckless use of a firearm, which the jury instructions in this case defined “recklessly” as “a CONSCIOUS or intentional act with the handling or use of a firearm that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk THAT SHE IS AWARE OF AND DISREGARDS [emphasis added].” I just don’t see the evidence that Potter was conscious that she was holding her glock instead of her taser. Nor was there evidence that she was even aware of the risk and chose to disregard it (she thought she was holding her taser). It seemed to me that the chaos of the events started by Wright demanded immediate action by Potter to prevent him from driving off with her two officer trainees still hanging inside the car. She had to focus on giving warnings that she was about to use her taser so that the other two officers could clear away, and to also warn Wright that he would be tasered. Cops are not allowed to taser a suspect who is driving in motion or running. I just don’t see the conscious act with the handling of the firearm that she was aware of (she wasn’t) and disregarded the risk (if she thought she actually held the taser in her hand, then she didn’t disregard the risk). With regard to second degree manslaughter, the trial court instructed the jury that “defendant created an unreasonable risk and CONSCIOUSLY [my emphasis] took a chance of causing death or great bodily harm.” If she thought she was holding a taser, did she consciously take a chance that she was going to shoot him with her glock? The judge also defined “culpable negligence” as intentional conduct that the defendant may not have intended, “but that an ordinary and reasonably prudent person would recognize as involving a strong possibility of injury to others.” Again, if she was not conscious that she was holding her glock, would she even recognize the strong possibility of injury to others? Certainly, it would not apply under a purely subjective test. But if the test was purely an objective one (based on the ordinary and reasonably prudent person), then obviously the ordinary and prudent person acting as a police officer does not confuse her service pistol with a taser. Thus, I have to assume that the jury applied a purely objective test to determine culpable negligence to reach their guilty verdict as to count 2, second-degree manslaughter. I can’t begin to tell you or anyone else how a jury reaches a decision in some cases. They have their reasons for doing so. But in my opinion, times have changed so that juries are much more prone now to convict police officers compared to just a couple of years ago. The problem I see is that police departments are having difficulty in filling positions because there is a greater possibility of their job being criminalized, when just several years ago, this shooting would be the subject of a civil suit and the prosecution would treat this as an accidental shooting as they have done with the majority of taser/pistol confusion cases in the past.

    1. Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea explains that for any act to be illegal in nature it must be done with a guilty mind. Thus to convict the defendant, it must be proved that the criminal act was carried out with a criminal intend. Not only is the act of the accused important but the intention of the accused to do the specific act is equally important to prove the guilt of the accused. Thus it can be concluded that mere commission of a criminal act or breach of law is not sufficient to constitute a crime. It should be combined with the presence of wrongful intent. Further the mens rea is important to understand the severity of the crime committed. The essential ingredient is the blameworthy condition of the mind. Its absence can negate the liability.The two basic components of criminal law is Actus Reus and Mens Rea. Actus Reus is the wrongful act committed and Mens Rea is the state of mind behind such acts. To make a person criminally accountable, it must be proved that an act, which is forbidden by law, has been caused by his conduct, and that the conduct was accompanied by a legally blameworthy attitude of mind.

      The Model Penal Code establishes 4 degrees of culpability for blameworthy acts, but the act itself has to first be blameworthy before it is a culpable act of which any degree of blameworthiness can attach. A lot of lawyers have missed that point.

  10. “Under Minn. law, first degree manslaughter requires the reckless use of a firearm, which the jury instructions in this case defined “recklessly” as “a CONSCIOUS or intentional act with the handling or use of a firearm that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk THAT SHE IS AWARE OF AND DISREGARDS [emphasis added].”

    First degree involuntary manslaughter in Minnesota is the common law crime of unlawful act involuntary manslaughter that was adopted by the Minnesota Legislature in their Reception Statute that adopted the English Law as the rule of law and decision in Minnesota. Unlawful act manslaughter requires that the prosecution prove all essential elements of the unlawful act beyond a reasonable doubt. One of those elements is a “unjustified risk.” When a person is in the act of committing and attempting to commit a forcible felony the law of Minnesota permits the use of deadly force by another to prevent those forcible felonies from being accomplished, to protect the victims of those forcible felonies, and to prevent the felon from escaping. Any risk of injury to Wright was justified by the statutes that permitted the use of deadly force. And Minnesota has a number of them.

Leave a Comment