A jury of 12 men and four women are scheduled to hear opening statements and testimony Tuesday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.
The jury was seated Monday morning after a week of questioning that touched on several issues that will come into play at trial. Noor, 33, is on trial in Hennepin County District Court for fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017.
The defense repeatedly asked prospective jurors last week about the training and licensing they received for their jobs, and asked if they were qualified to work on their first day. Some cautiously said yes, adding that they learned more as time passed. A few were emphatic that they were qualified from the start.
The line of questioning appeared to touch on the fact that Noor joined Minneapolis police in 2015 through an accelerated police cadet program.
When Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy questioned the jury pool of 24 on Monday, she carefully tread a similar line but leaned toward the argument that Noor’s actions did not align with best practices.
Sweasy asked a carpenter if he had “certain expectations” of his apprentice even though the apprentice was less experienced.
“Oh yes,” he said.
She then asked a self-proclaimed “rookie” Minneapolis firefighter if he adhered to specific standards despite being newer to the job.
Yes, he said.
“Anyone disagree that there’s a difference between experience and qualifications?” she then asked.
No one raised their hands.
While the defense has previously indicated that Noor acted in self-defense, the prosecution has argued that other officers would have acted more reasonably than Noor.
Noor shot Damond, 40, about 11:40 p.m. on July 15, 2017, after responding to her 911 call about a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home. Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity, has told investigators that the officers heard a loud sound near their squad car, Damond appeared at Harrity’s open driver’s side window and then Noor fired his weapon.
No one on the jury said they followed news of officer-involved shootings, including the 2016 fatal shooting of Philando Castile by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez.
Several of them own shotguns or handguns, the defense has said. Some of them said they had heard news of the case when it occurred; none reported following it closely.
There are six apparent people of color on the jury, four of them immigrants. Four of the jurors are alternates.
The jurors are:
• A male overnight manager at a high-end grocery store.
• A male civil engineer who works on track designs for light rails, streetcars and freight trains. He said he only knew “the basics” of the case.
• A man who works as a carpenter and also writes.
• A female obstetrician-gynecologist who described herself as a person of color. She said she has been second-guessed and mistaken as a nurse or lab technician because of other people’s implicit bias.
• A man who immigrated from the Philippines. He works as a host at a restaurant.
• A man who moved to the United States from Ethiopia. He works in the medical field.
• A man who had once served on a jury in a civil trial.
• A male software developer who recognized Noor’s name but hadn’t heard about the case.
• A male Minneapolis firefighter who knows three first responders on the prosecution’s witness list.
• A man who immigrated from the Philippines and works as an immigration services officer for the Department of Homeland Security.
• A man who works in the financial investment industry.
• A man who previously served in the U.S. Navy “hunting submarines” from helicopters. He has a permit to carry.
• A woman with experience as a business analyst. She grew emotional Friday when asked how she would handle graphic video of Damond dying at the scene. “Just the weight of it all,” she said crying. “It’s just very tragic — sorry.”
• A man who leads groups for people working on mental health issues and substance abuse recovery.
• A woman who immigrated from Pakistan several years ago and said she had “never heard” of the Noor case.
• A woman who is retired from Wells Fargo.
Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance said she expected to rule on outstanding motions Tuesday morning, including whether expert witnesses on either side can testify at trial. The judge initially said her decision regarding how to display some body camera footage and autopsy photos at trial would likely wait a day, but Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton raised concerns about the issue going unaddressed before the jury is sworn in. Quaintance said she would consider his concerns.
A coalition of media partners has challenged Quaintance’s prior ruling to play some body camera footage and display autopsy photos on a TV screen with its back turned to the public gallery. The four videos in question include Noor’s body camera footage, and show Noor giving Damond CPR and Damond dying.
Lofton said he expected the first video in question to be introduced at trial with the prosecution’s seventh witness.
Noor has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder with intent, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.