The sole charge of 2nd Degree Manslaughter brought against former Officer Kim Potter for the killing of Daunte Wright demonstrates a significant failure by Washington County Attorney Pete Orput to pursue and seek justice for Mr. Wright on behalf of our communities, and a dereliction of their responsibility to hold police accountable.
The Legal Rights Center (“LRC”) condemns the charging decision by the Washington County Attorney’s Office, and strongly urges Governor Walz to take immediate action and direct Attorney General Keith Ellison to assume responsibility for the case going forward. An appropriate charging decision would, at the very least, mirror the charging decision made against former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor who was charged with 2nd Deg. Murder, 3rd Deg. Murder and 2nd Deg.Manslaughter for shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
A 2nd Degree Murder charge would better reflect what we all witnessed in the body-worn camera footage released on Monday, and would reflect the community’s belief that former officer Potter’s actions were not merely a mistake.
We are also concerned with Washington County Attorney Pete Orput’s role in the prosecution of this case. Orput serves as legal counsel to the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, an unacceptable bias that should serve as an obvious conflict of interest. This case should not be prosecuted by a County Attorney who has no elected accountability to the residents of Hennepin County and who simultaneously advises the chiefs of police who have a vested interest in the outcome of the case that his office is now tasked with prosecuting.
There are also disturbing inconsistencies in the role that the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office (“HCAO”) has played in determining charges against law enforcement involved in the killing of our community members. Despite a June 2020 agreement to refer these cases to other offices for prosecution—the rationale cited for passing responsibility for this case to the Washington County Attorney—the HCAO made their own decisions not to charge police officers involved in the killings of Kobe Dimock-Heisler and Chiaser Vue. The inconsistency is glaring. The LRC demands that the exact terms of the agreement be made public, and that the rationale for which cases are referred and which cases remain at the HCAO be made public.
LRC staff include attorneys and advocates from a range of background and lived experiences.
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