Medical examiner starts second week of testimony in Kim Potter trial
Larson starts questioning Travis Melland, a forensic scientist for the BCA, at 3:33 p.m. He compares ammunition components for the BCA. Larson and Melland go over his background and duties before moving to how a gun works. Melland said he typically looks at cartridge casings and bullets for his job and explained that process.
At 3:40 p.m., they shift to this case. Melland said he was asked to compare Potter’s gun to the bullet recovered from Wright’s body and the discharged cartridge casing found in Wright’s vehicle. He confirmed that Potter’s gun fired the discharged cartridge casing and bullet. Melland said he also found between three and nine pounds of force is necessary to pull a gun’s trigger and, for Potter’s gun, it was 5.5 to six pounds of force.
At 3:46 p.m., Melland was excused.
Chu then dismisses the jurors early and says, "I want to assure you that we’re still on schedule."
After the jurors leave, Chu addresses two motions filed by the state and asks if the defense wants to put in a written motion or just an oral argument. The defense opts for an oral argument and Chu says she’ll review the motions tonight so they can all possibly discuss the motions Tuesday morning. The state then asks to be heard in chambers and they leave the courtroom at 3:47 p.m.
Court is set to reconvene Tuesday at 9 a.m.
The jury is brought back into the courtroom at 3:17 p.m. and Erik Koeppen, a forensic scientist for the BCA, is called to testify. Larson goes over Koeppen’s background and duties at the BCA. Koeppen then discusses how DNA works and how the BCA compares or matches DNA profiles.
Larson then shifts to the blood samples taken from Wright’s car. Koeppen confirms that the blood from the driver’s seat of Wright’s car matched Wright’s DNA profile. Blood on the front passenger’s side dashboard came from a female but the BCA didn’t have a DNA sample to match it to Albrecht-Payton. Koeppen also confirms blood found on the back driver’s side seat and on the interior roof of the car matched Wright’s DNA profile.
Koeppen is excused at 3:31 p.m.
Larson starts questioning BCA Senior Special Agent Sam McGinnis, who works in the Force Investigations Unit, at 2 p.m. They go over his work experience and training, including that he used to be a firearms instructor.
On April 11, McGinnis responded to the Brooklyn Center Police Department just after 4 p.m. He took pictures and collected equipment from Potter. The state then displays the pictures McGinnis took that day of Potter as well as the pictures he took of her duty belt and Taser. Larson then shows the firearm holster from Potter’s duty belt in the courtroom and the snap that holds it shut. The state also brings the Taser used by Potter into the courtroom and McGinnis explains how it works. McGinnis also turns it on to show the lights and lasers it displays when turned on, and shows the jurors what the back screen of the Taser shows when activated.
On May 4, McGinnis met with Sgt. Mike Peterson and Commander Garret Flesland to upload the data from Potter’s Taser onto the department’s computer system. McGinnis noted Potter was the only officer to have that Taser in the field and said the Taser was functioning at that time. He also noted Brooklyn Center Police policy states officers are supposed to spark test the Taser before each shift. McGinnis said he got Potter’s work schedule and noted, based on the Taser’s data, that Potter only spark tested her Taser on six of 10 shifts with it and didn’t spark test it on April 10 or 11. After a brief sidebar, Larson asks if the BCA weighed Potter’s firearm and Taser, which it did. McGinnis said the firearm weighed 2.11 pounds and the Taser weighed 0.94 pounds. With pictures of both showing, McGinnis then describes the differences between them, including the grip, the handle, grip texture, trigger and how to operate each.
After McGinnis says the differences are best experienced when holding the two, Larson asks the court to allow jurors to place their hands around each to experience the differences between the gun and Taser. The defense objects and a sidebar is called. After a couple of minutes, Chu says the objection is sustained and explains to the jurors they’ll be able to see a non-functional Taser and handgun during deliberations.
Engh takes over questioning McGinnis at 2:40 p.m. Engh then points out some similarities between the Taser and handgun, such as both having black color on the top, a trigger and are handheld, which McGinnis confirms. Engh asks if Potter was the only one using that new Taser and how many Brooklyn Center officers skip spark tests but McGinnis said he doesn’t have that information. McGinnis was able to confirm Potter never fired her Taser. He also confirmed Potter’s blood tests came back clean. Engh asks McGinnis if he’s ever asked Taser’s manufacturer why they built it shaped similarly to a gun and McGinnis replied that he didn’t.
Larson tries to then ask McGinnis further about Brooklyn Center’s Taser testing policy but the defense repeatedly objects and a sidebar is called. After a few minutes, Chu says the objection is overruled. When asked about the Taser spark test policy, McGinnis confirms there isn’t any exception to it and officers are supposed to test it every day before their shift.
Engh then asks McGinnis if he’s familiar with the customs and practices of individual officers in the Brooklyn Center Police Department. He replies that he’s not and is then excused.
Chu then excuses the jury for a 20-minute afternoon break.
Larson starts questioning Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michelle Frascone at 1:47 p.m. She currently works in the Force Investigations Unit. Frascone goes over her work experience and training.
Frascone said she was at home when she was asked to respond to the Brooklyn Center Police Department on April 11. She got there around 4 p.m., met with BCA Special Agent in Charge Scott Mueller to discuss what was happening, then went into a conference room to meet with Potter before going to another room to meet with Sgt. Johnson. Frascone said she did know Frascone before that day and their husbands worked together in the past. In the "very brief" time she spent with Potter, Frascone took Potter’s firearm — which belonged to Johnson and was unloaded.
Frascone noted she asked to have other duties assigned to her and not work with Potter to avoid any conflict of interest. She then met with Johnson and collected his firearm — which belonged to Potter. Frascone then quickly goes over a couple of pictures taken of their firearms.
Frascone is excused at 1:58 p.m.
Chu returned at 1:34 p.m. and addressed the attorneys about what they’d discussed before lunch. Chu said she won’t allow BCA agents to testify about what is on videos. The jury was called back into the courtroom at 1:39 p.m. and Larson asks Petersen just one question before turning it over to Gray.
Petersen confirms body cameras don’t show everything a person can see. He also confirms hollow-point bullets are used by law enforcement to reduce the risk of a bullet going through a subject and hitting someone else. Finally, he confirms the, "Taser, Taser, Taser" phrase is supposed to warn other officers.
Larson then asks about reviewing body camera footage. Gray objects several times before Petersen notes body camera footage has certain advantages compared to only relying on witness testimony.
Gray and Larson go back and forth a couple more times over body camera footage before Petersen is excused at 1:45 p.m.
Chu returns at 11:57 a.m. but immediately goes into a sidebar with the attorneys. At 12:09 p.m., Chu announces the objection was sustained. The jury is then called in and Larson continues questioning Petersen. The state then plays the synced videos of Potter’s body camera, Sgt. Johnson’s body camera and Potter’s dash camera. Petersen states, at one point, that he saw a manipulation of Potter’s holster, adding that he’s seen officers do it before and he’d done it before, too. He states he’d unlatch part of his holster to make it easier to draw a firearm.
As Larson asks Petersen about his other observations from the video, the defense objects and a brief sidebar is called and Chu overrules the objection. Larson then asks if Sgt. Johnson’s head was visible and Petersen states Johnson’s head and face were visible at times and his head appeared to be down when Potter fired the gunshot. Using screenshots from various parts of the video, Larson then asks about Luckey’s body positioning during the struggle with Wright. As Larson starts to do the same regarding Johnson’s body positioning, the defense objects and another sidebar is called. After a couple of minutes, Chu announces a lunch break until 1:30 p.m.
After the jurors leave, Chu and the attorneys discuss what Petersen is supposed to be testifying about. Chu states it seems like Petersen is telling jurors what evidence shows and Larson explains what the state is trying to do. Gray voices his frustration and Chu goes over the issues with the state’s plan. Larson, Gray and Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank then all jump in with their thoughts. "We’re kind of getting off-base here," Chu said, adding, "The video evidence is the evidence," and Petersen doesn’t need to testify about what it shows. They then leave for lunch at 12:36 p.m. with court set to reconvene at 1:30 p.m.
BCA Special Agent Brent Petersen is sworn in and Larson starts questioning him at 11:17 a.m. He said he’s in the Force Investigations Unit. He then goes over his experience and training. He said he’s worked about 73 use of force investigations with the BCA and was the lead agent on 13 of those. In this case, he worked in support of the lead agent.
Larson then shifts to April 11. Petersen said he responded to the scene around 5 p.m. and then met with Phill and Loren, got an overview of the scene and made some observations. He also met with Kerry Blanski, who lived nearby, and got surveillance video from her. After he helped Wright’s car get towed, he left the scene around 7:30 p.m. On April 13, he picked up five items from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office and brought them to the BCA for testing. Petersen then discusses the hollow-point bullet collected from Wright’s body by the medical examiner and notes that type of ammunition is designed to slow down in the body and can cause more damage in a person.
Larson and Petersen then shift to video from the traffic stop. The defense objects and asks for a sidebar. After a couple of minutes, Chu says the defense’s objection is overruled but Larson asks for a follow-up sidebar, which takes another couple of minutes. Chu then tells the jurors to take a 15-minute break and continues the sidebar for another couple of minutes before leaving the courtroom.
The jury is called back in and questioning of Loren resumes at 11:01 a.m. Loren explains how blood samples are taken from evidence and she then explains some pictures of where blood samples were taken in Wright’s car.
Defense attorney Paul Engh takes over questioning at 11:08 a.m. Loren confirms her team found what appeared to be marijuana in Wright’s car. After a state objection and a 5-minute sidebar, Engh continues. Loren states the sample that appeared to be marijuana was not tested. Engh asks about the toxicology results from Potter’s blood sample but Loren said she didn’t take or review those. Loren is then excused at 11:16 a.m.
Melissa Loren, the technical leader of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension crime scene team, is sworn in at 10 a.m. Prosecutor Joshua Larson asks her about her experience and duties at the BCA.
At 10:07 a.m., Larson shifts to April 11. Loren said she was on call when she learned about the officer-involved shooting. She notified her team and then went to the BCA lab to set up a case number and get the BCA’s crime scene vehicle. When Loren and her team got to the scene, they had a briefing with Special Agent Phill. After a brief sidebar, Chu overrules a defense objection and Larson continues questioning Loren. Loren said, after being briefed, she walked through the scene and started identifying and marking evidence. In the driver’s seat of Wright’s car, she found a discharged cartridge casing. Loren explains several pictures of the scene for the jury, including the bloody driver’s seat of Wright’s car with the discharged cartridge casing on the seat. Loren said she and her team were at the scene for just under three hours and also received other items, including Sgt. Johnson’s and Potter’s guns, from BCA agents. Loren then walks through pictures of Johnson’s and Potter’s weapons.
The next morning, Loren said she and her team examined Wright’s vehicle at the BCA’s headquarters. Loren explains the crime lab is a more controlled area that allows for better examination by her team. She then explains several pictures taken by her team at the crime lab.
At 10:36 a.m., Chu calls for a 20-minute morning break. Larson will continue questioning Loren when court reconvenes.
Dr. Lorren Jackson
Just after 9 a.m., Assistant Hennepin County Medical Examiner Lorren Jackson was sworn in and Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge began questioning him. Jackson went over his education and experience before moving into his duties at the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. He said the approach to an autopsy starts with information gathering about the subject, then moves to an examination of the body, both externally and internally. Jackson said he’s conducted over 1,800 autopsies and has assisted on hundreds more.
At 9:08 a.m., Jackson shifts to April 11 and said he was on call when he was notified of an officer-involved shooting. In those instances, he said medical examiners do respond with a medical investigator. He got to the scene just after 6 p.m. Jackson said he learned Wright had been stopped just down the road before his car crashed where Jackson found it. The state displayed several pictures of how Jackson found the scene and Wright’s body when he arrived and Jackson walked through them (Note: Per Judge Regina Chu’s order, pictures of Wright’s body weren’t allowed to be live-streamed but were shown in court). Jackson and the medical investigator examined Wright’s body at the scene, sealed it and then transported it to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. Jackson said he began the autopsy process the next day, starting with X-rays. He then walked through the autopsy and described his findings. He noted the bullet didn’t leave Wright’s body and it damaged Wright’s lungs and heart. "We refer to survival times in terms of seconds to minutes with these types of injuries," Jackson said, noting the damage he found wasn’t survivable. Jackson also said toxicology results indicated some marijuana use but nothing that would’ve affected his death. Wright’s death was caused by the gunshot wound to his chest, Jackson said, and his death was ruled a homicide.
At 9:52 a.m., defense attorney Earl Gray takes over the questioning of Jackson. Gray asks about the marijuana found in Wright’s body and Jackson lists the active level found as 43 nanograms per milliliter. Jackson said that’s a normal range for a person who reports using marijuana. Gray follows up on that total and Jackson then says that marijuana level is a high reading, based on his experience.
Gray wraps up after four minutes and Eldridge then follows up on the gunshot wound. Jackson noted Wright lost about 3 liters of blood, which he said is significant because someone of Wright’s size typically only has around 4.5 liters of blood. Eldridge also follows up on marijuana and Jackson said he’s never ruled a death or overdose from marijuana. Jackson is excused at 9:59 a.m.
The second week of testimony in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter is set to begin Monday.
Potter is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in Daunte Wright’s death during an April 11 traffic stop.
A medical examiner is expected to walk jurors through Wright’s autopsy at some point on Monday. Autopsy pictures won’t be allowed to be live-streamed, per Judge Regina Chu’s order, but will be shown in court.
Court is set to reconvene at 9 a.m.
This story will continue to be updated throughout the day as the trial proceeds.