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Crime: EXPLAINER: What's behind 'sordid' evidence at Potter trial?

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — After prosecutors spent nearly a day reconstructing the moments after a suburban Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Daunte Wright, one of her attorneys had heard enough. Paul Engh asked for a mistrial, decrying the “sordid pictures” that he said were irrelevant and were shown repeatedly to inflame the jury's sympathies.

CORRECTS TO BODY CAM OF BROOKLYN CENTER POLICE OFFICER JEFFREY SOMMERS, NOT CHAMPLIN POLICE OFFICER DANIEL IRISH - In this image taken from Brooklyn Center Police Officer Jeffrey Sommers' police body cam video that was played during the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Minneapolis, police approach the car that Daunte Wright was driving after being shot during a traffic stop. Potter, who is white, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of Wright, a Black motorist, in the suburb of Brooklyn Center. Potter has said she meant to use her Taser – but grabbed her handgun instead – after Wright tried to drive away as officers were trying to arrest him.  (Court TV, via AP, Pool): CORRECTION Daunte Wright Officer Trial © Provided by Associated Press CORRECTION Daunte Wright Officer Trial

But those details and the testimony of secondary witnesses, which may not directly affect whether the jury finds former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter guilty or acquits her, are part of a bigger-picture prosecution strategy to not only convict her of manslaughter, but to send her to prison for a longer term than she could get otherwise.

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Minnesota judges must follow state sentencing guidelines with a range that offers little leeway without having to explain their reasons. If prosecutors want to get a sentence longer than the range allows, they have to persuade a judge that aggravating factors warrant a tougher sentence. And that's what prosecutor Matthew Frank said he was doing.

CORRECTS TO BODY CAM OF BROOKLYN CENTER POLICE OFFICER JEFFREY SOMMERS, NOT CHAMPLIN POLICE OFFICER DANIEL IRISH - In this image taken from Brooklyn Center Police Officer Jeffrey Sommers' police body cam video that was played during the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Minneapolis, police approach the car that Daunte Wright was driving after being shot during a traffic stop. Potter, who is white, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of Wright, a Black motorist, in the suburb of Brooklyn Center. Potter has said she meant to use her Taser – but grabbed her handgun instead – after Wright tried to drive away as officers were trying to arrest him.  (Court TV, via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press CORRECTS TO BODY CAM OF BROOKLYN CENTER POLICE OFFICER JEFFREY SOMMERS, NOT CHAMPLIN POLICE OFFICER DANIEL IRISH - In this image taken from Brooklyn Center Police Officer Jeffrey Sommers' police body cam video that was played during the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Minneapolis, police approach the car that Daunte Wright was driving after being shot during a traffic stop. Potter, who is white, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of Wright, a Black motorist, in the suburb of Brooklyn Center. Potter has said she meant to use her Taser – but grabbed her handgun instead – after Wright tried to drive away as officers were trying to arrest him. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

Frank and his fellow prosecutors on Thursday presented a stream of officers, emergency medical workers and civilians who gave extensive details — accompanied by sometimes graphic videos and photos — about what happened in the minutes between Potter shooting Wright and paramedics declaring him dead at the scene where Potter and other officers tried to arrest the 20-year-old during a traffic stop.

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Potter and the officer she was training, Anthony Luckey, stopped Wright the afternoon of April 11 for expired license tags and an air freshener hanging from his mirror. Testimony and video evidence shows that Wright got out of the car but tried to break away and get back in when the officers told him there was a warrant for his arrest on a gross misdemeanor weapons possession violation.

In this screen grab from video, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank interviews a witness as Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu presides over court Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in the April 11, 2021, death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV, via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press In this screen grab from video, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank interviews a witness as Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu presides over court Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in the April 11, 2021, death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

Potter and her attorneys have said she meant to use her Taser to stop him but accidentally grabbed her gun before she shot Wright in the chest.

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Much of Thursday's testimony focused on what happened after Potter shot Wright and he then drove off and crashed into an oncoming car about a block away. The defense objected multiple times, arguing that the testimony and some of the images shown were needlessly repetitive and inflammatory.

Engh told Judge Regina Chu that the issue at hand was Potter’s thought process in the moment that she yelled “Taser, Taser, Taser” and pulled the trigger of her gun.

But Engh said the state had spent “an inordinate amount of time presenting prejudicial evidence" about the crash, which he said was caused by the gravely wounded Wright's excessive speed. “I didn’t see any evidence directed towards the proof of guilt today, but rather evidence of sordid pictures and prejudicial impact that had little relevance," he said.

In this image from video, defense attorney Paul Engh, speaks as Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu discusses jury instructions in court Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in the April 11, 2021, death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV, via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press In this image from video, defense attorney Paul Engh, speaks as Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu discusses jury instructions in court Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in the April 11, 2021, death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

Frank countered that because the state is seeking a lengthier sentence, the evidence was relevant to show that Potter’s actions recklessly created a danger to others. He said she shot Wright when he was still in a position to operate his car, and that she violated her position of trust as an officer. He blamed her for the crash, in which Wright's girlfriend and the elderly driver of the oncoming car were seriously injured. The state also contends that Potter's actions endangered Luckey and another officer who was assisting in the arrest.

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In this screen grab from video, Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu presides over court Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in the April 11, 2021, death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press In this screen grab from video, Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu presides over court Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter in the April 11, 2021, death of Daunte Wright, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

The driver's wife, who was in the car Wright struck but wasn't seriously injured, testified that the crash accelerated her husband's declining health. Her daughter's testimony backed that up. Wright's girlfriend said she still suffers from the effects of her broken jaw. Jurors saw a photo of her bleeding from the mouth.

The testimony of officers who rushed to the crash scene, and videos, suggested that Potter's actions might have put them at risk and delayed attempts to save Wright's life. They told the jury they didn't know at first that Wright had been shot and they weren't sure what they were dealing with at the crash scene. They said that because of the possibility that Wright was armed — he wasn't — they held back with guns drawn for about 8 1/2 minutes before pulling him from his car and trying to resuscitate him.

In this screen grab from video, Mychal Johnson, former patrol sergeant at the Brooklyn Center Police Department, testifies as Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu presides over court Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn.  Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 shooting of Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist, following a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. (Court TV, via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press In this screen grab from video, Mychal Johnson, former patrol sergeant at the Brooklyn Center Police Department, testifies as Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu presides over court Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 shooting of Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist, following a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

The first-degree manslaughter count requires prosecutors to prove that Potter acted recklessly. The second-degree manslaughter count requires them to prove culpable negligence. Neither charge requires proof that she intended to kill. The sentencing guidelines call for seven years and two months in prison on the first charge and four years on the other.

EXPLAINER: How does an officer use a gun instead of a Taser?

  EXPLAINER: How does an officer use a gun instead of a Taser? At former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter’s manslaughter trial for fatally shooting Daunte Wright, a Black motorist, the core of her defense is clear: She says she meant to use her Taser but grabbed her handgun instead. Potter’s body-camera video recorded the shooting, with Potter heard saying, “Taser, Taser, Taser” before she fired, followed by, “I grabbed the wrong (expletive) gun.” Many activists have refused to accept the former Brooklyn Center officer’s explanation. And the prosecution argued in its opening statement that Potter — a 26-year police veteran — had the experience and training to know better.

In this screen grab police body cam video is shown in court on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021 at Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn., former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter reacts after a traffic stop in which Daunte Wright was shot on April 11, 2021.  Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 shooting of Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist, following a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. (Court TV, via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press In this screen grab police body cam video is shown in court on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021 at Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn., former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter reacts after a traffic stop in which Daunte Wright was shot on April 11, 2021. Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 shooting of Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist, following a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

Prosecutors must prove aggravating circumstances — known as “Blakely factors” under a 2004 Minnesota Supreme Court decision — to get a sentence of more than eight years and seven months. The statutory maximum is 15 years on the most serious count. They haven't said how much extra prison time they'll seek if Potter is convicted.

A similar process happened in the trial this year of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd. Frank and other prosecutors in that case asked Judge Peter Cahill for a longer sentence than the 12 1/2 years recommended under the sentencing guidelines. The judge sentenced Chauvin to 22 1/2 years, saying prosecutors established that Chauvin abused his position of authority and treated Floyd with particular cruelty, that several children witnessed the crime live, and that Chauvin knew that kneeling on Floyd’s neck was dangerous.

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Find the AP’s full coverage of the Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright

Daunte Wright case: Jury begins deliberating in trial of ex-police officer Kim Potter .
A jury began deliberating Monday afternoon in the manslaughter trial of Kim Potter, the former Minnesota police officer who mistook her firearm for her Taser and fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop in April. © Pool The jury of six men and six women began deliberating at approximately 1:45 p.m. ET on Monday. They will be sequestered until the trial ends. Two alternates who had sat through the course of the trial were excused prior to deliberations.

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