Judges again rejected a convicted man's claims that he was denied a fair trial because of online comments a prosecutor posted that he alleges were derogatory toward Somalis.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday upheld the attempted first-degree murder and assault convictions of Abdulsalam Mohamed Usee and also rejected his claim that a statement from his co-defendant implicating him in the August 2008 shooting violated his right to confront an accuser.
Usee and Ahmed Ali, who are Somali, were convicted of shooting and wounding three people outside Cedar Riverside Plaza in Minneapolis.
During the trial, an acquaintance of Ali in the Hennepin County jail testified Ali told him that he and Usee were the shooters. A judge told jurors that they could consider the prisoner's statements in determining Ali's guilt or innocence, but not Usee's. Both were convicted.
The appeals court ruled that since the hearsay statement was made in passing, it was considered "non-testimonial" and didn't violate the Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
After the guilty verdicts, Usee and Ali each moved for a hearing on several grounds, including prosecutorial and juror misconduct. They alleged that Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Gretchen Gray-Larson posted comments on her public Facebook page discussing one of the jurors and stating that she was "keep[ing] the streets of Minneapolis safe from the Somalias [sic]" before the case went to the jury.
District Judge Patricia Kerr Karasov threw out both motions, calling both the defense and prosecution "careless, foolish and unprofessional."
The Appeals Court sided with Karasov, reasoning that there was no evidence any jurors saw the posts. They also noted that although defense attorneys learned of the posts the day that jurors began deliberations, they did not bring up the issue until their clients were convicted.
Usee is serving 20 years in prison. Ali, who is also appealing, is serving 17 years.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921