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Attorneys argue over evidence for ex-Minneapolis cop's trial

11 months 4 weeks 2 days ago Thursday, February 28 2019 Feb 28, 2019 February 28, 2019 10:25 PM February 28, 2019 in News - AP National

By AMY FORLITI
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A former Minneapolis police officer charged in the 2017 shooting death of an unarmed Australian woman is scheduled to appear in court Friday, as attorneys for both sides argue several issues in his case.

Mohamed Noor, 33, is charged with second-degree intentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the July 15, 2017, shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old life coach and Australian-American who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. Noor was fired from the police force after being charged.

Court documents filed in advance of Friday's hearing provide a roadmap for issues that are expected to come up. Among them, prosecutors want to use Noor's refusal to speak to investigators as evidence against him, and they want to submit evidence from a pre-employment psychological evaluation conducted in 2015. The defense wants to keep such evidence out and wants to sever the most serious murder charge from the other two counts.

It's not clear when Judge Kathryn Quaintance will rule.

Noor's trial begins April 1. Court documents indicate he will plead not guilty and will claim he was defending himself and others on the night of the shooting.

Noor has not spoken with investigators. His partner that night, Matthew Harrity, told investigators he was startled by a loud noise right before Damond approached the driver's-side window of their police SUV.

According to the criminal complaint, Harrity, who was driving, heard a voice and a thump and caught a glimpse of a person's head and shoulders outside his window. He then heard a sound like a lightbulb breaking, saw a flash and looked to his right to see Noor in the passenger seat with his arm extended. He looked out his window and saw Damond with a gunshot wound.

Prosecutors say investigators asked to arrange for a voluntary interview with Noor and that he declined through his attorney.

Defense attorneys say prosecutors aren't allowed to use that against Noor in court because he has a constitutional right not to make any self-incriminating statements.

But prosecutors argue that they can use a defendant's pre-arrest silence if the defendant was under no government-imposed compulsion to speak.

"In sum, the defendant had a choice on whether to tell his side of the story during a voluntary interview in a non-coercive setting," prosecutor Amy Sweasy wrote. "His decision not to do so is relevant."

It's unknown whether Noor, who is Somali-American, will testify at his trial.

Defense attorneys are seeking to omit some evidence, including some of Noor's past behavior as a police officer. They are also asking that, prior to jury selection, potential jurors be shown a video about unconscious bias, with the goal of helping jurors recognize potential biases. The state opposes this request.

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Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti

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