The “overwhelming evidence” presented at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor should prompt the court to deny his attorneys’ request to overturn his convictions, prosecutors argued.
Assistant Hennepin County attorneys Amy Sweasy and Patrick Lofton wrote in a court filing Thursday that defense attorneys failed to articulate a case for vacating Noor’s third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter convictions.
“The evidence at trial proved that the defendant, a trained police officer, fired his 9mm handgun from the passenger seat of his marked squad across the body and face of his partner without warning,” the prosecutors wrote. “He fired it through the small space of an open car window. … He also acted with full knowledge that his purpose for being in the alley was locating a woman; yet he fired at the first woman who approached the car.”
Jurors convicted Noor, 33, on April 30 of fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond after responding to her 911 call in 2017 about a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home.
Noor’s attorneys, Thomas Plunkett and Peter Wold, filed a motion for acquittal Tuesday, arguing that the state had not proven that he had acted with a “depraved mind.” The phrase, which is part of the third-degree murder statute, aligns more with a shooting spree or someone speeding into oncoming traffic, the defense argued.
Prosecutors pushed back, noting that jurors were not told that Noor had to have acted with a “depraved mind.”
Instead, Sweasy and Lofton wrote, jurors were given a broader instruction to consider before they began their approximately 10-hour deliberations: “The defendant’s intentional act … was eminently dangerous to human beings and was performed without regard to human life.”
Jurors were asked to determine whether Noor acted in a “reckless or wanton manner with the knowledge that someone may be killed and with a heedless disregard of that happening,” prosecutors argued.
The defense had argued that Noor fired at what he “incorrectly perceived [was] a specific person posing a threat,” so he didn’t act with a “depraved mind.”
Noor had considered his then-partner, Matthew Harrity, and a passing bicyclist before firing — and later rendered aid to the dying Damond — supporting an acquittal, the defense motion said.
“Mr. Noor’s actions show that he appreciated the potential for generalized danger, considered that danger, took steps to mitigate the danger, and fired once at a specific person,” the defense wrote.
Sweasy said in her closing arguments at trial and reiterated in the prosecution’s response that Noor was guilty of both counts because, besides killing Damond, he fired across Harrity’s face and in the same direction that a teenage bicyclist was traveling, putting both of them at risk.
Noor’s testimony at trial that he used his left arm to hold back and protect Harrity cannot be believed, prosecutors wrote. They added that the defense’s arguments for acquittal inappropriately rely on case law from first- and second-degree murder cases.
Veteran attorneys have observed that Noor’s third-degree murder conviction could be his best chance at a successful appeal, which is typically filed sometime after sentencing.
Noor is scheduled to be sentenced on June 7.