January 27, 2022

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Mixed Reactions On Twitter Following Kim Potter Testimony

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On Friday, former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter offered emotional testimony in her defense. The 49-year-old Potter, a 26 year veteran of the force, is on trial for the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright following a traffic stop. She claimed she had mistakenly drawn her gun instead of a Taser, and has been charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter. To convict her, prosecutors must prove she acted with reckless or culpable negligence.

“I remember yelling ‘Taser! Taser! Taser!’ and nothing happened, and then he told me I shot him,” Potter said in her testimony, adding, “I’m sorry it happened. I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”

Potter’s attorneys have argued that the use of force – including even deadly force – was justified, claiming that Wright had endangered Potter’s fellow officers when he attempted to flee from the arrest. While some have questioned how she mixed up her sidearm for the non-lethal Taser, the fact remains she’s never had to use either in such a situation during her 26-year-long career.

Social Media Reaction

Even as she was testifying, comments began to trend on social media, where some still questioned how the veteran officer could mistake her handgun for a Taser, while others suggested the shooting of Mr. Wright was further proof that police reform is needed.

“Kim Potter is perfect example of why we need to abolish police. We don’t need armed individuals who roam streets & kill ppl for no reason. We already have that among civilian population. If cops are trigger happy b/c they’re scared, they aren’t doing anything above the avg person,” wrote activist Bree Newsome Bass (@BreeNewsome).

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Many others posted on social media that her emotional response during the testimony was akin to “crocodile tears,” and that she was simply trying to win favor with the jury.

Journalist Chuck Modi (@ChudkModi1) tweeted, “Kim Potter employing the White Tears Defense Strategy.”

There were many memes that sought to paint a similar narrative, but a question could be asked as to whether such type of commentary or mockery is the least bit constructive, given the seriousness of this case. Political columnist Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) noted as much and suggested that such reactions were almost expected, writing, “Cue the Kim Potter-Kyle Rittenhouse ‘white tears’ comparisons on this hellscape of a platform.”

As with other high-profile cases, it was to be expected that there would be strong reactions on Twitter and other platforms.

“As long as it doesn’t affect the jury in any way, those on social media can post and say what they want to. Social media is instantaneous, so such commentary shows that people are paying attention,” said Daniel K. Maxwell, MPA, a distinguished lecturer in the Criminal Justice Department at the University of New Haven.

“We can’t get inside of her head, so we don’t know how she really feels,” added Maxwell.

What is notable about this case, and others including last month’s Kyle Rittenhouse trial is that the responses were very black and white, but Maxwell said in a phone interview with me on Friday that this is also common.

“What happens on social media is that those posting look at the facts that support their position. I think it is healthy that people are commenting on these issues, even if they are taking a one-sided view of the situation.”

However, such cases are yet another wedge issue that further divides users on social media, a fact that Maxwell said is worrisome.

“The problem is that this isn’t like in a classroom or discussion group where you have to defend your position,” he noted. “It allows those to run away in a direction they think supports their case without any sense of follow up. And many of those weighing in have no education in the subject matter. With social media, people comment on things they really don’t know much about.”

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