Attorneys for the former Brooklyn Center police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright can call a witness at trial to testify about behavioral errors, a judge ruled.
Defense attorneys Earl Gray and Paul Engh have said they plan to call forensic and police psychologist Laurence Miller, to discuss "slip and capture errors," which they believe caused Kimberly Potter to mistakenly fire her handgun at Wright instead of her Taser.
Police have said Potter apparently confused the two devices on April 11 when police body camera footage showed her shooting Wright once with her firearm while shouting, "Taser! Taser! Taser!"
Prosecutors had filed a motion to exclude or limit Miller's testimony, arguing that it was "not relevant and would not be helpful to the jury."
However, Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu, who is presiding over the case, issued an order earlier this week denying the prosecution's request.
"Minnesota courts have routinely admitted expert testimony on psychological phenomena such as battered-woman syndrome, counterintuitive post-rape conduct, and post-traumatic stress disorder," Chu wrote. "… Minnesota courts have also routinely limited such expert testimony to simply 'describing the syndrome and its characteristics,' and not opining as to whether any witness actually suffers from the syndrome."
Chu said Miller can explain "action error" and "slip-and-capture error," but cannot say whether he believes Potter suffered from the condition.
"… The State is alleging Defendant ignored her training, the layout of her duty belt and the distinguishing characteristics between her Taser and firearm on the fatal day," Chu wrote. "Dr. Miller's testimony is relevant and helpful to the defense theory that Defendant drew her handgun by mistake and acted without negligence or 'conscious disregard' of the risk of causing death or great bodily harm."
Wright was killed while trying to flee during a traffic stop.
Gray and Engh filed court papers in October outlining four potential defenses at trial: "Innocent Accident," "Innocent Mistake," "Her perceived use of a Taser was reasonable" and "Lack of causation."
Miller, the defense wrote, will testify that a more common action, such as deploying a firearm, can override a less common action, such as deploying a Taser.
"Thus 'despite difference in size, shape, weight, color, and position of these two weapons, the time pressure and intense focus on a deadly threat predisposes the brain to the perceptual-cognitive "slip" that allows the prepotent response to "capture" and carry out the more overlearned but currently unintended action,' " the attorneys wrote in quoting Miller's findings.
Potter, who is free on $100,000 bond, is charged with one count each of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter. She is scheduled to be tried Nov. 30.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708