Medical Examiner: Gunshot Wound to Wright's Heart not Survivable

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MINNEAPOLIS — The manslaughter trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter resumed Monday with testimony from a medical examiner who detailed the fatal injuries to Daunte Wright's body after he was shot.

Under questioning by prosecutor Erin Eldridge, Assistant Medical Examiner Lorren Jackson walked through photos that showed the bullet's entry on the lower left side of the chest, its passage through both lungs and heart before it remained in the body just before the skin on his right chest.

Potter, 49, is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the shooting of the 20-gear-old Wright on April 11. The 26-year police veteran contends she intended to use her Taser as Wright resisted arrest but shot her firearm instead. The prosecution contends she acted in a reckless and negligent manner when she killed Wright.

Jackson testified that the most significant injury was to Wright's heart, and more than 3 liters of blood were found in his chest.

"That's significant because an individual of Mr. Wright's size would have 4.5 to 5 liters of blood in his entire body, and when you lose half of that rapidly, your condition becomes critical."

He said Wright's wound was not survivable, with death likely in seconds to minutes, and the loss of consciousness between 10 to 15 seconds.

All of the photos of Wright's body, including him on the grass at the scene, where his vehicle crashed seconds after the shooting, were kept off the livestream but shown to the courtroom's occupants, which included Potter.

Much of the prosecution's goal in going through much of what has already been established in testimony so far is to get on the record the cause and manner of Wright's death. Jackson said he concluded that Wright died from a gunshot wound to the chest, and the manner was by homicide, which he said is defined as death "at the hands of another" and is not an indication of criminality.

Roughly 30 photos, one of them an illustration showing the bullet's trajectory, were shown in the courtroom. There were more photos available, but Judge Regina Chu limited the number shown to avoid prejudicing the jury.

Jackson also said that toxicology tests revealed marijuana use in Wright's body, a point that the defense has brought up numerous times during the trial.

Under questioning by defense attorney Earl Gray, Jackson testified that Wright had 43 nanograms per milliliter of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his body. Asked by Gray whether that was a high amount, Jackson said "It's on the high end of numbers that I see, yes." He also said it was possible that Wright could have been alive for up to a minute when the car sped off.

Under redirect questioning by Eldridge, Jackson said that "Relative to the gunshot wound, there is no importance of the level of THC in his system."

Gray countered, asking Jackson: "I was not implying that was a cause of death, I was just asking what was in his blood, correct?"

Jackson agreed.

On Friday, one officer at the traffic stop testified that Wright's persistence in evading arrest on a weapons violation justified the use of deadly force.

Former Brooklyn Center police Sgt. Mychal Johnson, now a major in the Red Wing-based Goodhue County Sheriff's Department, was reaching through the passenger door to try to restrain Wright at the time.

In cross-examining Johnson, defense lawyer Earl Gray asked: "Based on these [police body camera] videos, and the conduct of Daunte Wright, as far as you're concerned ... Kimberly Potter would have had a right to use a firearm, right?"

Johnson answered, "Yes."

Given Wright's resistance to arrest for the weapons charge, Johnson said state law allowed Potter to use deadly force against Wright. Johnson's camera captured dialogue that Gray highlighted.

"You said, 'Kim, that guy was trying to take off with me in the car,' " Gray said. Johnson responded, "Yes."

"And if he had taken off with you in that car halfway," Gray continued, "what would have happened to you? What do you think would be the worst that would happen?"

"Probably dragged," Johnson answered before agreeing with Gray's assertion that he also was at risk of serious injury or death.

"And if that were the case," Gray continued, "would an officer in your position, with officer Potter trying to stop [Wright] from resisting with you and resisting [fellow officer Anthony] Luckey, would it be fair for that officer to use a firearm to stop him?"

Johnson replied, "By state statute, yes."

Prosecutor Matthew Frank followed and asked about officers needing to be aware of the danger to bystanders when using firearms. He noted how close Potter was to Johnson and Wright's girlfriend in the passenger seat when she fired.

"Could [Potter] have shot you?" Frank asked, and Johnson responded, "yes." Johnson also agreed with Frank that the car drove off only because Potter fired her gun and after he had already gotten out of the vehicle.