OK, let’s put the Christmas spirit back in the box and talk about current events. I’m interested in your thoughts on the conviction of former-Officer Kim Potter in Minnesota, found guilty of Manslaughter in both the First and Second Degree last week in the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.  This was the case in which the cop mistook her Glock for her TASER and unintentionally fired a fatal shot into a young man trying to flee from arrest on outstanding warrants.

Distinguished law professor Alan Dershowitz thinks the verdict was a travesty.

I tend to agree with him.

I do think the defense dropped the ball more than once. Speaking from the courtroom side of my day job, I thought the defense did well cross-examining the prosecution’s witnesses, and had by far the better experts – particularly Steve Ijames, one of the most respected experts in law enforcement use of force today.  However, I am sure Ms. Potter wishes she could get a do-over of her own time on the witness stand…and the defense summation?  Legal commentators unanimously panned the close by defense attorney Earl Grey.  I watched it livestream as it happened and found it scattered, unorganized, and weak with occasional WTF moments. I guess you could say Earl Grey was not my cup of tea.

The verdict strikes me as self-contradictory: if they found her culpable one or the other of the two degrees of Manslaughter could be appropriate, but not both.  Since neither side argued that she intentionally shot him, it seems to me that the First Degree conviction should be thrown out. I believe Judge Chu still has the option to do that, and I hope she takes it.

It was a cross-racial shooting, and now more than ever that seems to blur rational analysis of the facts. Looking at commentary elsewhere, I am appalled at the degree of racism – from both sides of the divide – expressed by some. I am confident that won’t happen here. In fact, as the moderator here, I’m certain of it, hint hint.

That said, readers, I invite your commentary on this tragic case and its present outcome.


  1. If the officer couldn’t differentiate between a taser and her service weapon it’s a direct reflection on the training program (or lack there of) of the department. It’s a miracle more people were not killed or injured during this incident. I see there is another recent shooting where a round fired by a police officer penetrated a wall and killed a child. Seems like the police are too quick to “go to guns” without proper training.
    Jeff Cooper’s four basic rules of firearms safety apply no matter who you are are and what your situation is. In every police shootings I’ve read about at least one of the four rules was violated.
    1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
    2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule.
    4. Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.

    • Her inability to distinguish between her Taser and her gun was far more likely a reflection on the strange physiological things that happen to humans under extreme stress. “An abnormal response to an abnormal circumstance is normal”– Victor Frankl

      Also, I don’t follow how you conclude that the police are “too quick to go to guns” from two unrelated and dissimilar incidents.

  2. Branca thought it was a legitimate deadly force incident, if only she hadn’t had yelled “Taser, taser taser”. I can’t say what happened to cause the shooting but the trial was clearly bias.

  3. My 30 year career involved supporting lawyers with historical, legal, and legislative history research. By and large most lawyers are lazy and only seek to collect their fees or notches (wins) on their gun grips. Seeing the legal system from the inside did not not leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Maybe. It’s the best on Earth, but it is full of holes.

    The evidence points to a human mistake.

    Politics said convict, no matter what the evidence said.

    Sad that politics is more important than actual evidence.

  4. Agreed with the author’s take here. On the “too quick to go to guns” point: I do think that is a relevant topic since many people bring it up, in all walks of life, not just the media commentors. My take is that nothing less than a firearm is what is required when dealing with dangerous humans. Humans that disobey lawful orders by uniformed police officers fall into the dangerous category for me. Every situation is unique so the responsible person shouldn’t bring any sort of prejudice into it. But we should bring knowledge and experience, if our media will now show Mr. Wright being fatally shot on a loop then they should show the French policewoman being executed during the Charlie Hebdo murders. Personally, I’m glad that we arm our “peace officers” well, hint hint on that qualifier 😉

  5. Putting the case aside for a moment, do you think this will change the way police tasers are made or how an officer carries it? I’m not a fan of polymer frame pistols in general and I’m not trying beat the hate drum, but if the service weapon has an external safety (or if the taser did), would it have made a difference?

    • There’s a push for that, but what shape? Some have suggested shaping it like a flashlight. Cops use flashlights way more than guns, so “flashlight-TASER” confusion could follow. The TASER does have an activations switch that works similarly to an auto pistol thumb safety.

  6. The first Taser that I was issued, in the time of the dinosaurs, had a handle like a Dust Buster vacuum cleaner. They had battery issues, as the batteries aged, but, with good batteries, they worked well. Then, along came the X-26 Taser, which was of reasonable size to actually carry on a duty belt, and, alarmingly, handled like a pistol. The X-26 soon became an issued, and mandated item, on my duty belt. I was deeply concerned about errors occurring.

    I later learned that the type of error had a name: Slip and Capture Error.

    Slip and Capture Errors are a very human thing to do. Whether such an error is criminal, well, it seems that it is, when a police officer makes the error. Airplane pilots, who makes these errors, tend to pay with their lives, so, are not usually around to answer for their errors.

    I am no expert, but one of the benefits of being retired, from LEO-ing, is that I no longer have Slip-and-Capture anxiety.

    We live in interesting times.

  7. The one fact that really jumped out at me was the portion of the jury instructions which clearly stated that the accused must have had a knowledge that his/her actions could result in harm to another. In the prosecution’s closing argument, that critical statement was left out; as he gave his own version of the jury instructions which they, the jury, would soon be receiving. Defense counsel objected but Judge Chu overruled the objection. That was huge! Hope that error opens the door for a mistrial. Andrew Branca pointed that out. This was so wrong an many levels!

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