Ms. Potter, 48, worked for the Police Department for 26 years and was training a younger officer on Sunday afternoon when they pulled Mr. Wright’s car over. Officials have said that he had an expired registration on his car and something hanging from his rearview mirror. When officers found that Mr. Wright had a warrant out for his arrest and attempted to detain him, he twisted away and got back into his car.
In body-camera footage released on Monday, Ms. Potter warned that she would use a stun gun on Mr. Wright and then shouted “Taser!” three times before firing once into his chest. Ms. Potter could be heard swearing and saying, “I just shot him.” Tim Gannon, the chief of police at the time, described the killing as an “accidental discharge.”
Steven Wright, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, said second-degree manslaughter is a charge for offenses that are not planned — one example in the statute specifically addresses hunting accidents, not uncommon in Minnesota.
“The key issue is whether somebody acted reasonably under the circumstances, whether they created this risk of harm,” Mr. Wright said. “The state of mind of the officer is at the core of what we ask the jury to decide. In this case we’re really talking about: Is the accidental shooting forgivable or not?”
Richard Frase, a professor of criminal law at the University of Minnesota, said the second-degree manslaughter statute is worded narrowly enough that the case might prove difficult for prosecutors to prove, noting that it requires them to show that Ms. Potter consciously took a chance of “causing death or great bodily harm.”
“She thinks she’s firing a Taser,” he said of the former officer. “How can we prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she consciously took chances of at least causing great bodily harm?”
Mr. Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, was charged with second-degree manslaughter in Mr. Floyd’s death, but he also faces second-degree murder and third-degree murder charges and could be imprisoned for up to 40 years if he is convicted of the most serious charge. The jury is expected to begin deliberating early next week.