To some lawyers, the 24-month sentence for former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright showed once again how the U.S. judicial system treats white defendants differently than Black ones, while others called it reasoned and merciful.

"Every time you think you've got a shot at fairness and justice, you get the worst types of reminders that you're going to have to fight for every scrap," said St. Paul-based civil and criminal lawyer A.L. Brown, who is Black. "That boy's life was worth more than 24 months."

Brown compared Potter to former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017.

"He got the book thrown at him. He's Black-Somali; his victim is white," Brown said. "Kim Potter got a slap on the wrist. She's white; her victim is Black."

Noor is serving a sentence of nearly five years on a second-degree manslaughter conviction. Potter was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, a more serious crime for which state guidelines allow a sentence of at least six years. Instead, Potter will serve 16 months, the standard two-thirds of her sentence. She will be credited for the two months she has already served since her December conviction.

Before sentencing Potter, Hennepin County District Judge Regina Chu compared the two former officers. She noted that Noor had intentionally fired his handgun while Potter meant to fire her Taser but accidentally grabbed and fired her handgun.

Brown found more similarities than differences. He said both former officers fatally shot someone in the line of duty without the intent to kill in a fast-moving situation while attempting to protect their partners.

Other lawyers saw the sentence as appropriate for a 26-year public servant with no criminal history.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, who initially filed a second-degree manslaughter charge against Potter before Attorney General Keith Ellison took over the case and added the first-degree charge, applauded Chu for "a courageous decision that will open her up to judgments."

He noted the jury in the case quickly agreed Potter was guilty of second-degree manslaughter but deliberated roughly 20 more hours on the more serious first-degree charge.

Everyone agrees Potter made a mistake, he said. "So, how hard do you punish that?"

Defense attorney Mike Brandt said the shorter sentence "took a lot of courage, but I think it's the right thing to do."

In Potter's case, she made an "unconscious" split-second decision and wasn't intentionally doing something dangerous.

"Had she had time to think, she never would have pulled that trigger," he said.

Ayesha Bell Hardaway, an associate professor and co-director of the Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, was struck by Chu's plea for empathy for Potter.

"That's something you certainly don't hear with defendants of color," Bell Hardaway said. "It was very clear she was more troubled about what happened to Kim Potter's life than Daunte Wright."

Bell Hardaway called Chu "unprofessional" for choking up during sentencing and found it condescending for the judge to say, "Daunte Wright's life mattered."

Brown agreed, saying, "It seems Judge Chu thought highly of the defendant but didn't think much about what the defendant took away from the Wright family."

In explaining her sentencing decision, Chu noted the four reasons society supports incarceration: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation. The judge said Potter didn't need to be incapacitated, deterred or rehabilitated, so only retribution applies.

Bell Hardaway said Chu misunderstands deterrence.

"A deterrent is not just for an individual, but it's supposed to be a warning for other would-be offenders," she said.

Criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino similarly noted that Chu found it problematic that Potter's underlying action for the crime was not a conscious choice. For that reason, Tamburino believes Potter has a strong shot at a successful appeal of the conviction.

In his view, Noor's behavior differed from Potter's because he intentionally grabbed his gun and fired it.

"I give [Chu] a ton of credit because she really considered the individual factors," Tamburino said.

What was confusing to him and others was the state's decision to drop its push for a longer sentence. For months Attorney General Keith Ellison's office had said prosecutors would seek a longer sentence for Potter because of aggravating factors in her crime, saying she put public safety at risk and abused her position of authority.

But prosecutors dropped the request in recent days, something Tamburino called "completely confusing and back-pedaling." In her comments, Chu said she had determined that aggravating factors didn't exist in Potter's case.

Mark Osler, a University of St. Thomas School of Law professor, also was struck by the decision, saying, "I would like to know what spurred the change of heart on the prosecution's side."

Ellison issued a written statement after the sentencing in which he didn't mention the decision on the aggravating factors or directly address additional questions about the sentence, including whether his office would appeal — an option available because of the judge's departure from the guidelines. However, Ellison's statement seemed to indicate he would not

"I accept her judgment. I urge everyone to accept her judgment," the statement said in part.

"The judge could have given a sentence four times as long and chose not to," Osler said,

Although it may seem short, Osler said, "it's a very real punishment. It is not one that certainly the victim's family hoped for. It's not one that sends a message about violence against Black men, but it is one that offers real punishment."

Brown agreed that prison is difficult, but added, "I think 16 months is a real punishment for a far lesser crime."

Just two months ago when Potter was convicted, Brown expressed surprise and hope for a new era of accountability for police officers because a white cop was held liable for killing a Black man. He wasn't feeling the same Friday.

"I was hopeful at the time we were at a turning point, but hell …," he said, adding that for Black people and people of color, "you can't ask us to trust the system; it's an unreasonable request."