I read with interest "Daunte Wright's family calls for accountability 'come verdict day'" (front page, Nov. 30). While it tells a very important story, it shows significant bias, in my opinion, and lacks journalistic balance. There are multiple examples to address here but I will focus on just one in the interest of space.
The story quotes Courteney Ross as saying, "The fact that Kim Potter [brandished] a weapon for a routine traffic stop when the entire world was looking at racist cops under a microscope proved to me that Kim Potter was so brash and brazen that she murdered a Black man with no thought." While I deeply sympathize with Ross for the loss of her brutally murdered boyfriend George Floyd, this is a very unfair and inflammatory statement. First of all, it is factually incorrect. Only when it became a situation of someone with a warrant for their arrest attempting to resist and flee did Potter make the decision to tase Wright. For any reasonable person who has watched the body camera video and read accounts of her reactions after the video concluded, it is unambiguously obvious that Potter intended to tase Wright rather than shoot him, and that she was highly distraught when she realized what she had done in error.
It is clear there is widespread belief in the legal community (including relevant county attorneys) that first-degree manslaughter is too serious a charge in this case. However, Attorney General Keith Ellison did bring this charge. Even Ellison could not find justification in bringing a murder charge against Potter. Yet Ross uses the term "murder" freely in the above quote.
My primary concern here is that the Star Tribune published this quote with no critical context or qualification. It is presented as an unchallenged defining perspective. Later in the story a quote from one of Potter's defense attorneys is provided: "An accident is not a crime." However, this is quickly dismissed as a viable perspective using a quote from Ross referencing that in all her years in education she "never mistook a sticker for a stapler."
The grief of the Wright family is clearly immense and needs to be acknowledged. However, in the interests of fairness, this case warrants media coverage using the highest journalistic standards possible. In my opinion, this article fell well short of such standards; the issue raised above is only one of multiple problematic examples of bias in it that could be examined.
Peter Langworthy, St. Paul
A juror in the Potter trial stated while being vetted for duty that the shooting victim "should not have died for something like expired tabs" ("2 alternates chosen, full jury seated for Kimberly Potter's manslaughter trial, opening statements Wednesday," Dec. 3). She will be informed during the trial that he did not die for expired tabs. The arresting officers discovered the victim had a warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge. To an officer that means the young man was a potential threat to other people. Keep in mind that a charge of second-degree manslaughter is legally described as "unreasonable" action by the accused.
When cuffing was attempted, Wright struggled back into his vehicle and got behind the wheel. An attempt was made to stop him from resisting arrest and possibly escaping hazardously. Granted, a disastrous alleged mistake for all affected was made when, as body camera and audio show, a gun was used instead of a Taser.
The juror's impression is possibly the result of media's emphasizing the initial cause of the traffic stop and not emphasizing what the following circumstances were. It's also possible the victim had been profiled. But when the shooting took place that possibility became extraneous at the moment. In any event, my guess is that a civil trial will follow this criminal trial.
Jim Bartos, Maple Grove
Conservation starts on your lawn
The Nov. 28 article "U seeks traces of the 'Big Woods'" is both timely and critical. However, responsibility falls to all of us. Restoring the natural environment requires more than scattered parks and reserves. In an excellent book, "Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard," Douglas Tallamy strongly advocates for homeowners to take their own action. This is a grassroots approach to transform your yard into a conservation corridor that provides wildlife habitats. There are many resources available to help homeowners get started on converting all or parts of their lawns to native plants, shrubs and trees. It's up to each of us to support and build upon the excellent work of the U, Three Rivers Parks and others.
Elizabeth McIntosh, Minneapolis
Thank you for your recent article on the ecological problems created by the fragmentation of Minnesota's "Big Woods." It is staggering to think that what was once a rich forest of an estimated 1.3 million acres is now confined to scattered remnants of roughly 28,000 acres, or about 2% of the original extent. Kudos to Lee Frelich and others at the university's Center for Forest Ecology for their efforts to bring back the rich plant and animal life that these woods supported, and on which our lives depend.
Fortunately, there is another forest resource in Minnesota that has not, as yet, been reduced to fragments, namely, lowland conifer forests. These habitats are found in swamps and bogs, in shallow basins, along lakes and streams, as part of large peatland complexes, and in other areas where drainage is poor. They are characterized by stands of northern white cedar, tamarack and black spruce. These forests are relatively abundant in Minnesota, covering hundreds of thousands of acres, but rare elsewhere in the U.S. and even globally. Their preservation is critical for ecological diversity, wildlife and, particularly, for carbon storage and sequestration.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been working for a number of years on a plan to protect these forests, but no plan is yet in place. The DNR's most recent discussion has focused on only 41,000 acres for special protection, a totally incomplete approach to the issue. Minnesota needs to take aggressive action to be sure that these critical habitats are protected. I urge people who care about forest protection to contact the DNR and become involved in the discussion and decisionmaking about this issue. It is unthinkable that these critical habitats would end up in fragmented chunks like the "Big Woods."
Brett Smith, Minneapolis
The only sensible outcome: No mine
"Risk" in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness' watershed doesn't capture the magnitude of the copper-nickel mine decision facing the Department of Natural Resources ("Weigh in now on BWCA's future," editorial, Dec. 3). Its ruling could preserve or destroy Minnesota's and the nation's unique wilderness and the public's rights to it forever. Even a slight risk to the wilderness is too great when the mine could benefit only ephemeral private interests, foreign investors and local job creation.
It could be argued that no authority, including the DNR, can act to threaten the BWCA's future. Once it's agreed that a ruling could cause irreparable harm, the result must be denial of the permit.
William Dolan, Minneapolis
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