Fate of ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor now in hands of jury
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) – The decision of whether or not to convict former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the July 2017 shooting death of Australia native Justine Ruszczyk Damond now lies in the hands of the jury.
The jury–12 jurors and four alternates–consists of four women and 12 men. The jury includes half-a-dozen minorities, with four born outside the U.S. including two from the Phillipines, one from Pakistan and another from Ethiopia. Professionally, it includes a Minneapolis firefighter, an OB-GYN physician, a restaurant host and a Homeland Security Immigration officer.
Noor is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Prosecutor delivers closing arguments
In her 70-minute closing statement, prosecutor Amy Sweasy asked the jury to convict Noor on all three counts. She said second-degree manslaughter is the “floor” of what Noor is guilty of.
Sweasy pointed out big disparities between Noor’s testimony and that of his partner, Matthew Harrity, in moments surrounding shooting. She also suggested that Noor never mentioning he saved his partner’s life speaks volumes about the truth.
Sweasy told the jury that prosecutors wanted to give a full picture of this case, breaking down good police work and bad, good investigative efforts and missteps. But, the person on trial is Noor and he is responsible for his actions.
“No one should have been surprised by a woman in that alley,” Sweasy said.
Those officers knew a female 911 caller had called twice about a woman screaming behind a building. Sweasy argued it does not make sense that the officers were spooked by a woman approaching their squad car.
Defense tells jurors to focus on moment Noor fired gun
Noor’s defense attorney, Tom Plunkett, gave a 95-minute closing argument Monday afternoon. In it, he asked the jury not to focus on the sideshow of misused body cameras and shoddy investigation presented by the state. Instead, he told them to focus on Noor’s actions in the moment when he fired his weapon.
State recalls use-of-force experts for rebuttal
Both sides rested Monday morning after the state recalled two use-of-force experts as rebuttal witnesses.
Former Charlottesville Police Department Chief Timothy Longo described the amount of time Noor took to see Damond, un-holster his weapon and fire from his seated position inside the squad car. Longo said he should have had time to assess properly the threat Damond posed.
“Sadly and tragically, the sanctity of Justine Damond’s life was disregarded in this case,” Longo said.
Noor’s defense team went after the use-of-force experts with the totality of the situation: the split- second, the thump, the terrified reaction of Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity and the attempt to get his gun. They argued Noor did what he was supposed to do in that moment.
At 11:27 p.m. on July 15, 2017, Damond called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her house on the 5000 block of Washburn Avenue in Minneapolis’ Fulton neighborhood.
In his testimony, Justine’s fiancé, Don Damond, told the court that he had received a call from her a few minutes prior in which she told him she thought she could hear a woman possibly being sexually assaulted. He said he told her to call the police and stay put. That was the last time he heard from her.
At 11:35 p.m., Justine called 911 again and said no one had arrived and she was worried they got the address wrong.
According to the charges, Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, entered the alley on 50th Street in their squad car at 11:37 p.m. Harrity was driving.
They neared the end of the alley at 11:39 p.m. Noor entered “Code 4” into the squad computer, which meant the officers were safe and needed no assistance.
A few seconds later, Harrity reportedly heard a thump on the back of the squad car, which startled the officers–although that “thump” has been disputed by prosecutors. Harrity testified that he was reaching for his gun when Noor reached across him and fired a shot through the open driver’s side window.
Noor fatally shot Justine at 11:40 p.m.—13 minutes after the first 911 call.
Harrity got out of the squad and helped guide Justine to the ground. The officers attempted to provide aid to her, but she died at the scene.
The officers were wearing body cameras, but did not turn them on until after the shooting. Jurors watched Harrity’s body camera footage earlier in the trial, which shows Justine taking her final breaths.