Attorneys prosecuting former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor on murder charges plan to introduce evidence about the Minneapolis Police Department's body camera policy and other officers' experiences with people approaching their squad cars.
Pushing back on the defense's attempt to limit or prohibit such evidence at trial, prosecutors argued in court filings that the elements are critical to understanding the context of the 2017 killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond and the reasonableness of Noor's actions.
Noor and his partner, officer Matthew Harrity, did not have their body cameras on when they responded to Damond's 911 call about a possible sexual assault behind her south Minneapolis home.
That "shows that they did not think this was a particularly serious call," wrote Assistant Hennepin County Attorneys Amy Sweasy and Patrick Lofton. "This evidence will stand in stark contrast to any assertion that it was necessary to have their guns drawn, or that either of them experienced anything that would have made it justifiable to use deadly force."
Minneapolis' body camera policy at the time gave officers discretion about when to turn the technology on; it was revised after Damond was killed on July 15, 2017.
Noor's attorneys, Thomas Plunkett and Peter Wold, filed motions last week arguing that evidence about the policy should be severely limited or completely prohibited because it would create an "irrelevant sideshow."
Sweasy and Lofton said the policy adds context.
"The fact that [Noor] did not have his [body camera] turned on before he [fired] shows that he was not experiencing fear or … in a state of so-called 'heightened alert,' " the prosecutors wrote.
They also noted that Noor's statement to his supervisor about why he shot Damond was not recorded on camera because the supervisor turned off her body camera at the time, and that she turned it off two other times at the scene.
Noor and Harrity turned their cameras on after the shooting. Damond, who was unarmed, was shot after she approached the officers' squad car and they heard an apparent slap on the vehicle.
Noor, 33, is scheduled to stand trial April 1 in Hennepin County District Court on charges of second-degree murder with intent, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecutors opposed the defense's request to prohibit testimony from other officers "regarding their experiences with persons slapping, striking or approaching cars and/or their opinions" about the case.
"Testimony from officers about the ways police respond to certain calls and the manner in which reasonable officers encounter citizens … is relevant," the prosecution wrote.
"The defendant wants it both ways; he intends to claim he was acting as a reasonable police officer when he shot and killed an unarmed 911 caller looking for his help and simultaneously keep the jury from hearing the common experience of officers who will describe similar events occurring as a regular part of police work."
"Those police officers have never killed an approaching citizen."
Sweasy and Lofton also argued that they should be allowed to examine officer bias if evidence and testimony merit it.
Defense attorneys had asked that a judge prohibit prosecutors from introducing evidence about "a blue line of silence" regarding officers' interactions with their union during the investigation.
"The jury should question the credibility of any officer's testimony if he or she demonstrates an unwillingness to give full or truthful testimony because of a bias toward police," prosecutors wrote.
"Similarly, the behaviors and statements of particular officers and investigators at the crime scene and during the investigation that demonstrate bias are relevant to show how and why certain evidence was or was not acquired or preserved."
Sweasy and Lofton filed a motion supporting the court's proposal to keep potential jurors' names anonymous during the selection process. They requested that names be released to both sides of the case, but that potential jurors only be referred to by number in open court.
They also asked that jurors' names be kept confidential until after the trial.
"It is a practical middle ground that would protect the jurors' privacy, reduce the possibility of outside influence, and will still allow both parties to fully and fairly try the case," prosecutors wrote.