Attorneys for the ex-Minneapolis police officer awaiting trial for the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond say prosecutors distorted and omitted details in attempting to paint him as an overwhelmed cop whose inattention to duty led to her death.
The attorneys challenged the admissibility of Mohamed Noor's field training and psychological evaluations released by prosecutors, which they said was "gravely flawed in both law and fact."
"The defense asks that none of this information be considered by the Court for probable cause," Noor's attorneys wrote in a memorandum filed Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court.
The two sides will argue pretrial motions later this month before Judge Kathryn Quaintance.
Noor was charged in March with Damond's death after responding to her 911 call about a woman in distress near her south Minneapolis home. He became the first Minnesota police officer in recent memory to be charged with murder in an on-duty killing. Prosecutors say he shot her from inside his police SUV while responding to her 911 call near her south Minneapolis home. Noor, who was fired the same day he was charged, has said he acted in self-defense.
In a series of filings last week, prosecutors argued that Noor raised red flags in early 2015 after taking a psychological profile exam, which revealed "a level of disaffiliativeness that may be incompatible with public safety requirements." The revelations came in response to a motion by defense attorneys to dismiss the third-degree murder and manslaughter charges filed against him.
But Noor's defense team said the findings are intended to be "correlated" with a clinical interview, while arguing that the test itself is culturally biased.
"The State engaged in, at best, willful ignorance in their reply and knowingly encourages this Court to rely on a racially questionable test interpretation — a serious claim to be sure," attorneys argued.
A psychiatrist found Noor fit for duty, saying he exhibited no signs of a major mental illness, chemical dependence or personality disorder, standing by a recommendation even after a civilian human resources employee followed up seeking clarification, court records show.
The psychiatrist referenced in the filings, Dr. Thomas Gratzer, was later replaced amid concerns about his methods.
Noor's attorneys, Thomas Plunkett and Peter Wold, also disputed the argument that the former officer's behavior during his field training had raised concerns about his ability to handle the stress of regular police work.
Prosecutors honed in on "negative feedback" that every trainee receives, the defense argued, while pointing out that most of Noor's field training reports were favorable.
"[A]t no time was Officer Noor ever found to be not acceptable on any task," his lawyers said. "He was not perfect. His most frequent criticism was geographic orientation which is very common.
They also challenged prosecutors' characterization of a traffic stop roughly two months before the shooting, in which Noor put a gun to the head of a motorist after pulling him over for a minor moving violation.
A review of dashboard camera showed that the driver had failed to immediately pull over after the officers activated their emergency lights and then made "an exaggerated furtive movement," leading the officers to believe that he may have been trying to conceal drugs or reaching for a gun, according to the defense memo. Their decision to approach the vehicle with their guns drawn was in response to the possible threat, Noor's attorneys said in the memo, adding that Noor never pointed his gun at the motorist as prosecutors have alleged.
"These lies by omission and clear misstatements of fact actively mislead the reader and obscure the truth," they said.
Noor is also the subject of two civil lawsuits that are wending through federal court, including a $50 million wrongful death suit brought by Damond's father, John Ruszczyk. Another suit was filed weeks before the Damond shooting by a south Minneapolis woman who says that Noor and two other officers violated her rights by unlawfully detaining her.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the union that represents the city's rank-and-file officers, has since appealed Noor's dismissal, citing what it sees as the lack of due process.
Neither side would comment on the latest filing.