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LEGAL Ongoing Coverage of the Noor Trial via Powerlineblog
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2004
    N. Minnesota

    Ongoing Coverage of the Noor Trial via Powerlineblog

    Posted on April 17, 2019 by Scott Johnson

    (This is the trial of the Minneapolis Somoli cop shooting the Australian woman. I'm not going to update this everyday, but as a point of interest, Scott Johnson has a media seat at the trial and has been giving daily summaries. If you are interested, check out his daily posts, and those previous, on the website. WT)

    At the Noor trial (11)

    We had an important day in the trial of the murder/manslaughter trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor for the killing of Justine Ruszcyk. The prosecution called MPD fifth precinct sergeant Shannon Barnette to the stand, but was allowed to cross-examine her under Rule 611 of the Rules of Evidence. She was essentially treated by the County Attorney as an adverse witness.

    The prosecution bears the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but Noor’s defense of the use of deadly force in this case rests on two prongs: (1) Justine slapped the Harrity/Noor squad car as it stopped at the end of the alley behind her house in southwest Minneapolis (in the safest neighborhood in Minneapolis’s five precincts) and (2) Harrity and Noor feared a police ambush in connection with Justine’s 911 call as they were about to leave the scene. Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy’s examination of Barnette did substantial damage to the first prong of the defense.

    Sweasy is an excellent cross-examiner. I am impressed by her. Her examination of Barnette was devastating. As I read the proceedings, she left Barnette flustered and humiliated because Barnette was making it up as she went along.

    The Star Tribune summarizes yesterday’s testimony here, MPR here. My emphasis differs from theirs. The background of their narrative accounts affords me the freedom to bottom-line it, as they say in the business world.

    • Barnette was riding alone on the on the middle shift watch when she heard the shots-fired call on her radio. She activated her bodycam and took off for the scene. She took over the scene as the critical incident commander under the protocol for officer-involved shootings.

    • Before I get to the heart of her testimony I should note that Barnette was one of the police non-cooperators with the County Attorney’s investigation of the killing. The County Attorney’s undertook the investigation after he found the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s investigation to be inadequate. Barnette refused to talk voluntarily to the County Attorney. Her testimony was compelled before the grand jury that the County Attorney empaneled specifically to obtain the testimony of the police non-cooperators.

    • Barnette recorded three bodycam clips at the scene on the evening of July 15-16. She turned off her bodycam when she talked to Noor as he sat in the squad car before he left for City Hall per police protocol in officer-involved shootings. She had a hard time explaining why she turned the bodycam on and off at the scene.

    • The second bodycam clip is nevertheless crucial. She talked to Harrity upon arrival. The second clip captures Harrity’s explanation of the shooting to Barnette: “She just came out of nowhere on the side of the thing [squad car] and we both got spooked. I had my gun out. I didn’t fire. And then Noor pulled out and fired.”

    • Key words: “We both got spooked.”

    • After the initial playing of the three video clips we broke for lunch. Barnette’s testimony consumed most of the afternoon. Barnette couldn’t explain why she turned her bodycam on and off.

    • Sweasy’s cross-examination of Barnette persuaded me that Barnette invented Jutine’s slap on the car to explain why Harrity said Justine “spooked” them.

    • Peter Wold made the slap an important part of his opening statement. He dramatically slapped the counsel table during his statement to illustrate it.

    • Assistant County Attorney Patrick Lofton suggested during his opening statement that the slap didn’t occur, but rather that Barnette invented it during the investigation of the shooting by the BCA.

    • On this point I take it that the prosecution delivered on the promise of delivering on what it promised the evidence would show in its opening statement; the defense came up short (so far). Harrity’s testimony may yet shore up the defense.

    • Both the Star Tribune and MPR note that the transcript of Barnette’s interview with the BCA reflects Barnette recalling Harrity telling her that Justine had a “stunned look on her face and then he heard a noise and then Noor shot her.” This didn’t make much of an impression on me compared to what went before.

    • Peter Wold briefly cross-examined Barnette. He tried to build her back up a little, invoking her long day at the scene (more than 20 hours) to explain the deficiencies in her report. He went over provisions of the bodycam policy in effect at the time of the incident to explain the decisions she made turning her bodycam on and off. He elicited her observation that Noor had a “thousand-yard stare” when she tracked him down in Ringgenberg’s squad car before he departed for City Hall. He had her explain that she had all the evidence she needed for public safety purposes without going into further details with Harrity and without interviewing Noor at all.

    • My impression, perhaps mistaken, was that Peter perceived Barnette’s ship to have sunk. His cross-examination of Barnette was relatively brief, as most of the defense cross-examinations so far have been. My guess is that he didn’t want to tie Noor too tightly to Barnette after Sweasy was done with her.

    • Barnette was not a credible witness. She was a defeated person when she got off the stand. I almost felt sorry for her.

    The prosecution asked the court to adjourn a few minutes early in light of a witness whom it will examine at length today. Could it be Harrity?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Thanks for taking the time to provide a summary of the trial.
    corruptissima re publica plurimae leges

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    SE Okieland
    At least two officers need to be fired and the murder needs to be executed for murder....


  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Texican View Post
    At least two officers need to be fired and the murder needs to be executed for murder....

    Agreed. There is NO excuse for this cold blooded murder. Any cop who is such a pansy as to get "spooked" when a white woman in her pajamas (who called 911!) shows up should never have worn the uniform in the first place.


  5. #5
    Thanks for the update. So many times cases like this get swept under the rug. I want to know what happens, so thanks VERY much.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Yes, indeed. I figured Noor was in line for a desk job retirement with a guaranteed salary.
    "Freedom is not something to be secured in any one moment of time. We must struggle to preserve it every day. And freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction."
    -Ronald Reagan

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2004
    N. Minnesota
    Here's Scott Johnson's report on yesterday's festivities. Links at site.

    At the Noor trial (12)

    Posted on April 18, 2019 by Scott Johnson

    Witnesses in the trial of Mohamed Noor are sequestered outside the courtroom and jurors are to avoid news and social media touching on the trial in any way. My waking hours are spent inside the courtroom. I am of necessity avoiding all news except for news bearing on the trial. If you’re looking for something on the Mueller report, I am not your man.

    Yesterday the prosecution continued methodically to call law enforcement witnesses who participated in the investigation or showed up at the scene of Justine Ruszcyk’s shooting by former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor. Two witnesses stood out: a teenage passerby and a Hennepin County Attorney’s Office investigator.

    • Patricia McIlvenna was out walking the dog with her daughter a few blocks from Justine’s house. At 9:15, she saw an apparently confused older woman wandering the neighborhood with a roller suitcase. She called 911 three times. She last saw her at 50th and Xerxes, a block from Justine’s house. Is this the woman whose moaning Justine heard in the alley behind her house?

    • The stoner bicyclist who passed the scene at the time of the shooting testified. He was 16 at the time. Having smoked a little weed and downed no more than four shots of whiskey, he took off for a friend’s house on his bicycle bearing weed. Seeing the police squad at the end of the alley at 51st and Washburn, he put his head down and tried to keep his cool. The Star Tribune has a detailed account of the bicyclist’s testimony. See also this MPR story.

    • The bicyclist has given conflicting statements about the shooting, but he wasn’t a bad witness. Indeed, the Star Tribune reporters found him “compelling.” He was engagingly candid. Think of the Michael Cera Superbad and you won’t be far off.

    • He is a high school senior going on to college. He is a long-time employee at an ice cream shop. Given his tenure at the shop, he is entrusted with various tasks and responsibilities.

    • Taking his testimony at face value, he saw Justine approaching the squad car cell phone in her left hand, her right hand raised. She was 7-10 feet from the squad. He heard no noise before Noor’s gunshot. He heard the gunshot as he passed.

    • He pulled out his cell phone and started recording (he had the newest version of the iPhone). He took a 29-second video of Harrity helping Justine on the ground. He asked the officers: “What’s going on here, sir?” Noor instructed him he could video but he had to back off. His video was obviously taken in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

    • He circulated the video to 7-10 of his closest friends an Snapchat.

    • Nothing in the bicyclists’s testimony assisted the defense. Defense counsel Tom Plunkett elicited testimony about the bicyclist’s preference for the officers’ to have used tasers he assumed they had. The young man sounded reasonable to me.

    • Plunkett gently tried to discredit him with one question too many when inquired if he was still smoking marijuana now. Judge Quaintance angrily sustained the prosecution’s object, but he answered anyway: “And I’m not.”

    • Nancy Dunlap is a former Minneapolis Police Department officer now with the Hennepin County Attorney’s. She was an impressive witness.

    • She has created a timeline that incorporates every known digital and electronic element leading up to the shooting. She identified the time of the shooting precisely at 11:40 on the evening of July 15.

    • I think that KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse has the most valuable Twitter feed on the trial. He is an extremely attentive observer.

    • One detail from Dunlap’s testimony would have escaped me but for Lou’s notes on Twitter. Officer Harrity failed to turn on his bodycam at any time during his shift on July 15 except, as it appears, immediately after the shooting. Given the way the bodycam records, with a 30-second silent buffer before it adds sound, there appears to be a 15-second gap (my term) that should have caught the shooting.

    Lou Raguse

    · 17h
    Replying to @LouRaguse

    However, Dunlap said that Harrity's body camera only has a *15 second* buffer without sound. Not the full 30 seconds. And Dunlap laid out a comprehensive timeline she created using evidence they've gathered.

    Lou Raguse


    Dunlap's timeline:
    11:40:15pm Shot is fired
    11:40:29 Harrity's body camera starts running.

    That is 14 seconds after the shot is fired, meaning if the full 30 second buffer was there, it would have included the shooting. #NoorTrial #JustineDamond
    2:46 PM - Apr 17, 2019
    Twitter Ads info and privacy

    See Lou Raguse's other Tweets

    • The prosecution also called Minneapolis police officer Richard Opitz. After roll call on the morning of July 16, he was ordered to the scene. At the scene Sergeant Barnette ordered him to take the Harrity/Noor squad car from which Noor had fired the gunshot to the carwash and have it cleaned. He took it to Dan’s Nicollet Carwash. He saw fingerprint powder on the squad car that was not entirely removed by the carwash. He drove the car back to the fifth precinct headquarters parking lot to be returned to service.

    This case can drive you crazy.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2004
    N. Minnesota

    The latest - from yesterday. As before, links are at site. W.T.

    At the Noor trial (17): Noor testifies

    Posted on April 25, 2019 by Scott Johnson

    I inferred that Mohamed Noor was going to testify on his own behalf from defense counsel Peter Wold’s opening statement, but his intentions remained unclear. This morning we learned that Noor was going to take the stand, as indeed he did when prosecution expert Timothy Longo concluded his testimony and the prosecution rested its case. I have to leave early for court tomorrow morning. I am filing this special edition of this series tonight so I don’t have to worry about it tomorrow.

    The prosecution is not quite done cross-examining Noor. The cross-examination will continue this morning. The Star Tribune focuses on Noor’s testimony here, MPR here. With that as background, these are my thoughts and impressions, beginning with the conclusion of Longo’s testimony.

    • Longo made for a spectacular expert witness. His background, experience, demeanor, and testimony are stellar. I thought that Peter Wold got roughly nowhere with Longo on cross-examination. He emphasized that Harrity’s startled reaction to the alleged slap on the squad and silhouette to his left could not have warranted the use of deadly force by Harrity or Noor. Peter was unable to dent this judgment.

    • Peter tried to make the point that Longo had never had to make the split-second life or death decision that Noor had to make. Longo went into impressive detail on three such incidents in which he had chosen not to shoot.

    • On redirect, prosecutor Amy Sweasy emphasized that Longo had not had the benefit of any statement from Noor on what he saw before he shot. He remained in the courtroom for Noor’s testimony. Now that he has heard it, he may be recalled by the prosecution for rebuttal. That should be interesting. The state rested its case with Longo’s testimony.

    • The defense called Noor.
    Defense counsel Tom Plunkett conducted the direct examination. This is the first time Noor has talked about the case for public consumption. It was an incredibly dramatic moment in the trial. The jurors paid close attention. Some of them seem to me in Noor’s corner.

    • On direct examination Noor told the life story that Peter Wold had advertised in his opening statement. Noor made for a good witness on direct. He is soft-spoken, respectful, dignified, and he had a story to tell. He broke down a few times as he testified. At worst, his story seemed slightly overrehearsed.

    • Getting to the heart of it, Noor testified that he heard a loud bang. Previously known as a “slap” or a “thump,” it has grown like Topsy.

    • Noor saw Harrity look out the driver’s side, shout “Oh, Jesus,” fumble to unholster his gun and look at Noor with terror in his eyes. Noor then pulled his gun, reached his left arm across Harrity’s body and held him back as he looked out and saw a woman with blonde hair wearing a pink t-shirt.

    • Noor says he saw Justine raise her right arm, but did not see her hand. He saw no weapon. He nevertheless deemed her a “threat,” as he called her, and fired one shot at her.

    • Noor testified that he fired because he perceived his partner to be in fear of death or great bodily harm. He feared death or great bodily harm based on what he saw of his partner and of Justine combined.

    • Harrity had testified that all he saw was a silhouette and he had no problem unholstering his gun. Their stories don’t mesh.

    • Noor made the stoner bicyclist sound like he may have been part of an impending police ambush. Noor testified that he saw the bicyclist stop in the street in front of him just before the loud bang. (The bicyclist testified he kept moving by the police because he didn’t want to get stopped with weed on him. I think I believe the bicyclist.) Were it not for the tragedy, this aspect of the defense would be laughable. Ambush in southwest Minneapolis, the safest neighborhood in the city.

    • As Plunkett concluded his direct examination, Noor stated that he acted out of concern for both his and his partner’s safety.

    • That’s where Sweasy picked up her cross-examination. Concern for their safety doesn’t cut it. It has to be death or great bodily harm. So he got back to that, but Sweasy instantly made hash of his legal defense.

    • Sweasy is a brutally effective cross-examiner. Her tone verges on the mean and nasty if it is not already there. It works wonderfully well with me, but I wonder about the jury.

    • Sweasy caught Noor in many inconsistencies. Itemizing them goes beyond the scope of what I am trying to do here. She seemed to me highly effective in impugning Noor’s credibility, causing him to resort to formulaic answers such as “I relied on my training.”

    • If Noor is lying or shading the truth, however, why doesn’t he go all the way and say he saw something in Justine’s hand that he thought was a weapon? Instead he testified he couldn’t see her hands and thought “she might have had a weapon.”

    • In Sergeant Barnette’s bodycam video, Noor is seated in a squad car after the incident, waiting to be taken to City Hall. In the silent (buffering) portion of the video, he can be seen demonstrating how he aimed his gun and shot out the open window on the driver’s side. It doesn’t match his testimony. He testified he doesn’t recall what he was doing in the video.

    • In several other respects, Noor’s memory is in fact highly convenient, to say the least.

    KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse saves his best stuff for Twitter. Below is one of the highlights he picked out from Sweasy’s cross.

    Lou Raguse

    · 15h
    Replying to @LouRaguse

    Sweasy: "Officer Harrity did not yell, 'gun, gun.' He did not say "help."
    Noor: No ma'am.

    Lou Raguse


    Noor then said "I fired once. The threat took a couple steps back..."
    Sweasy: Did you just say "the threat" took a couple steps back?
    Noor: Yes.
    Sweasy: "The whole blonde hair, pink t-shirt and all is a threat to you?"#NoorTrial #JustineDamond
    6:04 PM - Apr 25, 2019

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2004
    N. Minnesota
    It's coming down to the wire on this one and in the hands of the jury. Again, links at site. W.T.

    At the Noor Trial (19)

    Posted on April 30, 2019 by Scott Johnson

    The prosecution briefly called its two experts back to the stand on rebuttal. Prosecutor Amy Sweasy and defense counsel Tom Plunkett made their closing arguments. Judge Quaintance instructed the jury. Without a break for lunch, Judge Quaintance then told the jury at 2:00 p.m. that the case is in their hands. Sequestered for deliberations, the jury now considers the two murder and one manslaughter charge against Mohamed Noor.

    The Star Tribune summarizes yesterday’s events in court here, MPR here. Here are the highlights along with my thoughts and impressions.

    • The prosecution recalled experts Derek Hunter and Timothy Longo to the stand. Having viewed Noor’s testimony — Noor’s first public account of events — in court last week, each reiterated his testimony that Noor’s use of force was unreasonable

    • Hunter rejected Noor’s claim that Noor relied on his training to shoot Justine. On cross-examination, defense counsel Peter Wold suggested that Hunter was “invested” in the prosecution based on the 600 hours he had spent advising the Hennepin County Attorney on the case. When Peter noted each of the events that allegedly prompted Noor to fire, including Harrity’s reaction to whatever he saw, Hunter asserted: “Each officer has to analyze the threat.”

    • Longo too testified that his opinion remained unchanged. Noor had not testified to facts reasonably making out the threat of death or great bodily harm. Justine’s alleged raising of her right arm didn’t create an apparent threat.

    • Longo relied in part on defense expert Kapelsohn’s description of the steps necessary to draw a pistol from a level-3 holster (if that is what happened). Contradicting a defense theme, Longo stated: “It took a whole lot more than a split second.”

    • Longo testified that there was no obvious or visible threat of death or great bodily harm. The standard for the use of deadly force is the same regardless of the officer’s experience on the job. Minneapolis Police Department Policy places preeminent value on “the sanctity of life.” The sanctity of Justine’s life was disregarded.

    • On cross-examination, Peter returned to the fear Noor allegedly saw in Harrity’s eyes as Harrity allegedly struggled to unholster his weapon. (Harrity testified to no such trouble.) Didn’t Harrity’s reaction support Noor’s perception of the risk? “Pulling the weapon out is different from firing it — which is what happened here,” Longo testified.

    • That is where Peter ended his cross-examination. I’m not sure my notes have the quote quite right, but it was a high point for the prosecution. Longo was the voice of sanity in this case.

    • The lawyers made their closing arguments after Judge Quaintance instructed the jury. Sweasy took about 75 minutes, Plunkett about 90. Because it has the burden of proof, the prosecution gets the last word before the jury retires. Sweasy took another 15 minutes in rebuttal.

    • What did Justine do wrong? The only thing Justine did was walk up to a squad car carrying an iPhone in a gold case, according to Sweasy.

    • We have presented you everything that is knowable about this case, Sweasy told the jury. You saw absolutely everything.

    • Sweasy made a powerful point regarding the many officers who arrived on the scene following the shooting. None of them could understand it. No explanation was forthcoming from the officers themselves. I would say the only explanation we have on the scene is Harrity’s: Justine spooked them. If there were an explanation, Sweasy emphasized, that would have been the time to say it.

    • Sweasy talked a lot — too much — about the problems with the investigation.

    • Sweasy discussed the slap turned thump turned loud bang. There is no proof it occurred, she told the jury, which isn’t quite true. “No two people have described it the same,” she continued. Now that is true.

    • Sweasy described Noor’s testimony as “practiced.” Noor had two themes: he had to make a split-second decision (this comes out of the Supreme Court case on the lawful use of deadly force, by the way) and he relied on his partner.

    • Sweasy discussed the visible evolution of Noor’s testimony this past Thursday and Friday. She used the Noor’s testimony on the stoner bicyclist as one of her most powerful examples. She also talked about the inconsistencies between Harrity’s and Noor’s testimony.

    • She talked about the inconsistencies between Harrity’s. On Noor’s own testimony, Noor easily made out Justine as the blonde in the pink t-shirt standing by the driver’s side of the squad. By this point, I noted, Sweasy had lost the jury, but I had the same reaction to Plunkett’s closing. I thought the jury tuned him out too.

    • Sweasy went through the three charges and along with Minnesota law on the authorized use of force by officers. She asserted that the jury should return guilty verdicts on all three charges.

    • Then Plunkett took center stage. He banged counsel table. He exclaimed “Oh, Jesus.” This case is “the perfect storm. That’s the whole case.” I don’t think that’s a great metaphor for this case, but Plunkett didn’t even bother to explain it. What if I don’t know what a perfect storm is?

    • “Milliseconds. These are all the facts that matter.”

    • Plunkett repeatedly characterized the facts of the case as a tragedy, not a crime. This was a motif of his closing argument.

    • Plunkett emphasized that Noor didn’t have to see a gun reasonably to believe that Harrity was at risk of death or great bodily harm.

    • Plunkett attacked the prosecution’s case as “sideshows” and “red herrings.” This soon morphed into “slideshows” and “red herrings.”

    • When he allegedly saw Justine’s hand being raised, Noor had to assume it was bad.

    • If Justine had a gun, we wouldn’t be here. Plunkett actually said that. Instead the case presents a barefoot woman in her pajamas calling the police to help a third-party. The innocent woman wound up dead in the alley courtesy of the police. If Justine hadn’t called the police, she’d still be with us.

    • “What we don’t have here is a crime,” Plunkett asserted.

    • Plunkett didn’t explain what “a perfect storm is,” but he did explain what a “red herring” is. A “‘red herring’ is something from law school,” he explained. What law school did he go to?

    • Plunkett itemized the many “red herrings” in the prosecution’s case. What about the “slideshows”?

    • Sweasy had stood before the jury with the lectern at her left side. She spoke to the jury with the aid of a few notes on the lectern. Plunkett readjusted the lectern to stand and front of it read much of his closing from a text. It was disorganized, lengthy, weak.

    • Unlike Sweasy, however, Plunkett did address the burden of proof. “Beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said, is the level of evidence you would need to make a serious medical decision affecting your kids, he said. I thought Sweasy’s failure to address the burden of proof was a mistake.

    • Plunkett played a (false) race card from the bottom of the deck. Plunkett alleged that the prosecution had injected race into the case with its characterization of Justine as a blonde in a pink t-shirt. In her rebuttal, however, Sweasy hammered Plunkett for this. The characterization came straight from Noor on the witness stand this past Thursday. No one could have missed it.

    • Once again, Plunkett asserted, the case is a tragedy, not a crime.

    • Do not compromise, Plunkett urged the jury. Return three not guilty verdicts.

    The jury is out. I shall return in part 20 of this series with the jury’s verdict.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Behind Enemy Lines
    Noor saw Harrity look out the driver’s side, shout “Oh, Jesus,” fumble to unholster his gun and look at Noor with terror in his eyes.

    I know this statement is bullshit for jury consumption, but if it were true, that man should never have become a cop. He has ZERO cojones.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2004
    N. Minnesota
    After seeing the charges...two murder and one manslaughter...I have a sinking feeling the jury will take the easy way out with manslaughter (unless they go completely bat-shit and acquit given the location/demographics). Should be 3rd degree murder.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2004
    N. Minnesota
    From live KSTP just now.

    Guilty of 3rd Degree murder,
    Guilty of 2nd degree manslaughter

    And confirmed by St. Paul Pioneer Press.


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