Potter trial and verdict was political, not legal

The only decisions being made right now in Minnesota are political decisions.

It was a political decision to charge Kim Potter with a crime for making a mistake while carrying out her duties as a police officer.

It was a political decision for Washington County prosecutor Imran Ali to resign after protesters tried to bully him and his boss into charging Potter with murder.

It was a political decision for Attorney General Keith Ellison to take over the case and ultimately charge Potter with first and second-degree manslaughter.

It was a political decision for the judge to put the trial on television, and many more political decisions were made by prosecutors once the cameras were rolling, dragging out the trial with eight days of testimony.

The biggest political decision, of course, came from the jury. It was a political decision, not a legal decision, to find Kim Potter guilty of first and second-degree manslaughter. There is no other way to reconcile the verdict with the facts and the law. Second-degree manslaughter requires a person to “consciously” cause the death of another. No one who watched that video, both before and after the criminal was shot, could believe Potter consciously meant to end his life that day, beyond a reasonable doubt.

The jury clearly threw their detailed instructions in the trash and commenced a three-day political discussion. A white cop shot a black criminal. George Floyd was also killed by a white cop in our county. There are protesters outside the window. The Attorney General is sitting in the courtroom. The world is watching us. We have to do the right thing. Guilty. Guilty.

Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu followed the verdict with a political decision of her own by not releasing Potter until her sentencing hearing. There is absolutely no legal reason to hold someone with Potter’s background and record in jail until sentencing. She poses no threat to the community and is certainly not a flight risk. Chu is more concerned with her own career and the next cocktail party than she is with public safety.

The aftermath of the verdict brought more predictable political reactions from the regular suspects.

Ellison held a press conference and asked us to think about what the criminal in this case might be doing if he were still alive (probably committing more crime). Ellison also had a message for Minnesota police officers: we support you, but we’re going to hold you accountable. I can only imagine how the rank and file will react to that.

Gov. Tim Walz tweeted that “Minnesota has work to do to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again.” It was an accident in the middle of a crazy and dangerous situation. What “work” is he talking about? Is Walz ready to work on the chronic breakdown of the family, especially in the Black community? Is Walz ready to fix the revolving door of justice that spit this criminal out of the system and back on the street that day so he could attempt to flee from police? Is Walz ready to take responsibility for the culture of lawlessness he created when he froze for two days during the riots in 2020 and sent a very strong message to Minnesota (and the rest of the country) that criminals won’t be held accountable for bad behavior? I doubt it.   

More political decisions are in our future, and we aren’t going to like the consequences. The decision-making process for police officers just changed.

Should I wrestle with this suspect? Should I prevent him from fleeing? Should I pull him over in the first place? Should I even be a cop anymore? If I make a mistake, I could lose my freedom. Who’s got my back?

I’d like to think Kim Potter made her own political decision yesterday when she smiled for her mug shot photo. It clearly triggered the right people. I hope she finds peace.