Lawyers on both sides of the murder case against former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor filed a flurry of motions on Friday, setting the stage for a final court hearing before the widely watched case goes to trial in April.
In their filings, Noor’s defense attorneys argued a number of legal points, including asking presiding Judge Kathryn Quaintance to bar prosecutors from using Noor’s prior police record, his psychological evaluations or his pretrial silence against him at trial.
They also objected to the use of a “fly through,” or a digital reconstruction, of the scene from the night of July 15, 2017, when Noor shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond after responding to her 911 call about a possible rape behind her south Minneapolis home.
“The fly through packages opinion testimony into a video that unfairly represents the actual evidence and risks confusing the jury,” the defense wrote. “The fly through also encourages the jury to consider the events in slow motion with a field of view that is wider than what a person would actually see.”
Noor hasn’t entered a plea on the charges leveled against him — second- and third-degree murder, and manslaughter — but has signaled that he will plead not guilty by reason of self-defense. He remains free on bail.
An appeal of his firing is on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case, as is a federal lawsuit against him. The case made international headlines, and it led to the ouster of the city’s former police chief and a range of reforms within the department.
Prosecutors made their own demands Friday, arguing against the admissibility of statements that the former cop made to an investigator for the defense team and a defense witness, providing his account of the night of Damond’s death.
Noor hasn’t spoken with investigators since Damond’s death. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination twice while appearing before a grand jury, in February and March of last year, prosecutors said. But, prosecutors said, the defense disclosed last month that Noor had talked about the incident with their investigator and Emanuel Kapelsohn, a leading use-of-force expert who has testified in other trials involving officers who discharged their weapons on duty.
“The defendant’s statements to [the investigator] and Mr. Kapelsohn are the first and only statements the defendant has made in the 17 months since he shot and killed Ms. Ruszczyk,” prosecutors wrote. “They are vague and limited to matters carefully and selectively curated to further his defense.”
A list of prosecution witnesses includes state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents, forensic scientists, psychologists and Timothy Longo, a retired chief of police in Charlottesville, Va.
Quaintance will consider the requests on March 1, the final hearing before Noor’s trial is scheduled to begin the following month.
Issues of psychology, race
Prosecutors intend to present psychological and training records at trial depicting a pattern of “reckless” behavior that raised questions about Noor’s suitability for the job long before the shooting. The defense has argued that the prosecutions’ interpretations of the test results were misleading and culturally biased.
The issue of race has loomed over the case since Noor’s arrest. Noor is Somali-American, while Damond was white. He is the first police officer statewide in recent memory to be charged with murder for an on-duty killing.
Noor’s attorneys want to show prospective jurors a video aimed at helping them understand their own unconscious biases about race, sex, culture and religion — over the objections of the state. And a questionnaire for prospective jurors, also released Friday, asks candidates whether they have ever had “particularly positive or negative” experiences with someone of Somali descent.
Noor’s attorneys also moved to suppress statements that a robbery detective made after Damond’s death suggesting that Noor find a “safe place to stay” until after the media furor that subsided, the filings said.
Earlier this month, an attorney in the federal lawsuit requested a hearing on the issue of whether the city of Minneapolis intends to indemnify Noor, accusing city attorneys of keeping him in the dark.