MINNEAPOLIS – Jurors overseeing the Minneapolis manslaughter trial for former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer Kim Potter have heard testimony from loved ones of the man whom she shot and killed last April.
So far, Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, and his girlfriend, Alayna Albrecht-Payton, have taken the stand to speak about the 20-year-old man. Albrecht-Payton was in the car at the time of the April 11 shooting and spoke to the moments surrounding Wright’s death.
Minnesota is one of the rare states that allows prosecutors to call witnesses to the stand to provide character witness-type testimony under the “spark of life” doctrine.
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The doctrine was established in 1985, when a defendant accused of killing a police officer argued to the Minnesota Supreme Court that the prosecutor prejudiced the jury with a speech about the officer’s childhood, his parents and his marriage. The prosecutor became so emotional the trial court had to take a recess.
The court ruled that prosecutors can present evidence that a murder victim was “not just bones and sinews covered with flesh, but was imbued with the spark of life.”
Such testimony was also seen during the trial for ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who was ultimately convicted of murder for George Floyd’s death.
“The argument for support of the doctrine is to humanize the individual, to not have them be simply a dead body or a corpse – some life to who they were and the value they had before they died,” New York City-based attorney Julie Rendelman told Fox News Digital.
The former prosecutor added: “And the controversy about that is, how is it relevant to the crimes charged? And is it, which I think many would agree, is it prejudicial to the defendant when it comes to a jury’s decision?”
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Potter, 49, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter for shooting Wright during a traffic stop on April 11. She and other officers, including a trainee, had been trying to detain Wright after learning of a warrant for his arrest. Wright, 20, can be seen in a police video climbing back into the driver’s seat of a vehicle as the officers scuffle with him.
In Potter’s body camera video from the shooting, she can be heard yelling, “I’ll tase you!” and “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing her handgun.
She can then be heard saying, “I grabbed the wrong f—— gun,” followed by: “Holy s—, I just shot him.”
Potter, who had been a police officer for 26 years, resigned from the department just days after the shooting. She faces up to 15 years if convicted on the highest count.
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Wright’s mother, Katie Bryant, provided some spark of life testimony on Wednesday, saying her son loved to play basketball and was a jokester, and that he was thinking about pursuing carpentry. She said Wright’s son, Daunte Jr., was born early at 28 weeks and while the baby was hospitalized, Wright fed him with a Q-tip dipped in milk.
She said Wright, 20, was proud to be a father, but also worried because the boy was premature. “He was an amazing dad.”
Prosecutors have also said they intend to call Wright’s father, Arbuey Wright, to the stand as they near the end of their case to present “spark of life” testimony.
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Meanwhile, Albrecht-Payton cried on the stand on Thursday as she recounted Wright’s shooting death. She described the chaos right after an officer shot him, saying she screamed at Wright trying to get a response but that he “wasn’t answering me and he was just gasping.”
“I grabbed, like, whatever was in the car. I don’t remember if it was a sweater or a towel or a blanket or something … and put it on his chest like, like you know, you see in movies and TV shows,” Alayna Albrecht-Payton, who was Wright’s girlfriend, testified. “I didn’t know what to do.”
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Albrecht-Payton answered Wright’s cellphone as his mother tried frantically to reestablish contact after a call with him was cut off right before he was shot. Wright’s mother, Katie Bryant, testified tearfully on Wednesday that she first saw her son’s apparently lifeless body via that video call.
“I pointed the camera on him,” Albrecht-Payton said. “And I’m so sorry I did that.”
Fox News’ Jiovanni Lieggi contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.