A local broadcasting company is joining the Star Tribune’s effort to compel a judge to release the names of jurors who convicted former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., which owns KSTP-TV channel 5 and KSTC-TV channel 45, filed a motion and affidavit Tuesday asking Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance to unseal the jurors’ names.
The Star Tribune filed its motion on Feb. 11 after Quaintance issued a fourth order in late January sealing the names nearly a year after Noor’s conviction.
Both media companies requested that the list of juror names, juror profiles and juror questionnaires, among other information, be made public for “news gathering and reporting.”
“Hubbard journalists covering the above-captioned criminal case have treated all trial participants, including the jurors, with respect,” said an affidavit by John Kirkland Varner, news director for the two TV channels. “Aside from the John Gotti mob case, I cannot recall ever being aware of another instance where, nine months after entry of the verdict, a judge refused to release the names of jurors responsible for that verdict.”
After a monthlong trial watched around the world, jurors convicted Noor, 34, in April of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for shooting Damond. Noor was responding to Damond’s 911 call about a possible sexual assault behind her south Minneapolis home on July 15, 2017, when he shot the 40-year-old from the passenger seat of a police squad car.
Quaintance first sealed the juror information in May and issued similar orders in July, October and this January.
Quaintance has cited ongoing interest from the media and public as key reasons to keep the names private. She has raised the possibility that jurors will face “unwanted publicity and harassment,” but has not cited specific threats made to the jurors among the communication she said her office has received about the case.
While a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling and the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure give judges guidance and discretion in releasing juror names, Varner echoed many of the concerns raised in the Star Tribune motion.
The Star Tribune argued that the court’s “continued secrecy” violates court rules, common law and the First Amendment.
A defendant’s constitutional right to a public trial also includes making juror information public.
“I do not believe this case merits different treatment,” Varner wrote. “If anything, the degree of public interest and concern it attracted warrants more transparency.”
Quaintance has not ruled on the Star Tribune’s motion.
Noor appealed his conviction, and the case is pending.