The defense for the ex-Minneapolis police officer charged with fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017 skipped inspection of a police squad SUV as part of its preparation in the murder case, despite getting a judge’s signoff to do so.
In their filing Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court on behalf of fired police officer Mohamed Noor, attorneys Thomas Plunkett and Peter Wold pointed to limitations placed by the court in granting permission for Noor’s team access to an SUV similar to the one Noor and his partner were in behind Damond’s home in south Minneapolis, where Noor shot her.
The judge set a four-hour window last Friday for inspection by the defense, which said it zeroed in on that day and time because the moon’s illumination would be similar to when the shooting occurred. The time came and went with no inspection.
Noor’s attorneys outlined in Wednesday’s filing several reasons why the limitations placed by the court “made any access to the squad car meaningless.”
Most notably, the court document read, the defense and its investigator, William O’Keefe, could only photograph, measure and independently inspect the SUV at or near Fifth Precinct headquarters and not near the residential alley where Damond was shot.
“The court order gelded the defense investigation,” the defense filing read. “The process forced the defense to openly discuss [its] investigation plan and theories of the case.”
The defense explained that its filing Wednesday was to get its objection on the record because it “anticipates future disputes over the admissibility of any and all evidence in this matter.”
Noor was fired in March, the same day prosecutors announced charges against him for shooting Damond after responding to her 911 call on July 15, 2017, to report a possible rape in the alley behind her southwest Minneapolis home.
Authorities say he fired past his partner, Matthew Harrity, who was behind the wheel, as Damond approached the driver-side window. Noor’s attorneys have indicated he will plead not guilty to charges of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. In the meantime, he remains free on bail.
Noor is the first police officer statewide in recent memory to be charged with murder for an on-duty killing. A trial date is set for April 1, with a hearing to clear up any remaining pretrial motions scheduled for early March.
He also faces a $50 million lawsuit filed by Damond’s father, which accuses him and his former partner, Harrity, of conspiring to cover up evidence by failing to turn on their body cameras and by later hiding behind a “blue wall of silence” as the case was being investigated.
That suit, in which the city is also a co-defendant, is on hold pending the criminal trial.