Lawyers spar over experts in Noor trial

Friday, March 29, 2019

The attorneys from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office prosecuting former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor spent much of Friday morning arguing that Noor’s expert witness should not be allowed to testify, or his testimony should be limited.

Emanuel Kapelsohn was hired to give expert testimony for the defense on firearms and force science, which is the psychological and physiological effects on people placed in life-threatening situations where they might have to use force, including deadly force.

One of Noor’s lawyers, Peter Wold, took Kapelsohn through a series of questions to elicit why he should be considered an expert.  He is a graduate of Harvard Law School but since 1985 he has run his own company which trains police officers on use of force and has been an expert witness in cases across the nation.

Kapelsohn is certified by the FBI as a police firearms instructor and has written articles for specialty publications, as well as helped police and sheriff’s departments write their policies on use of force. He currently is a special deputy in Berks County in Pennsylvania, a position equivalent to a reserve officer.

Senior Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy cross-examined Kapelsohn and he agreed that he has never completed police officer academy training, has never been a full time police officer and does not hold a peace officer’s license. He also acknowledged he is not a doctor or psychologist and his only medical training is CPR and First Aid courses.

In her summation, Sweasy said that he has never held a job that is in any way similar to the job Noor was doing when he shot and killed Justine Damond Ruszczyk on July 15, 2017. Expert witnesses, whether a doctor or a construction worker, “should have some practical experience,” she said.

Sweasy said Kapelsohn’s views on the reaction of people in life-threatening situations is not something he is an expert in because of his lack of medical training and it is irrelevant anyway, because “we don’t agree that Ms. Ruszczyk acted in a life threatening way.”

Judge Kathryn Quaintance did not rule immediately on the prosecutors’ motion to limit Kapelsohn’s testimony. Later in the afternoon, two prosecution expert witnesses testified as the defense tried to limit their testimony.

Noor’s trial on murder charges in Damond Ruszczyk’s death after she called 911 police to report a possible sexual assault of a woman in an alley near her south Minneapolis home will begin Monday with jury selection.

Earlier in Friday’s hearing, Judge Quaintance ruled on motions from earlier this month on various types of evidence, some of which could be used if the lawyers could establish the foundation for bringing it in. However, she ruled against prosecution motions to introduce the Minneapolis Police Department policy on body cameras and testimony from other officers on how they responded to someone slapping their squad car.

She also denied a motion by the defense attorneys to penalize the prosecution for washing Noor’s squad car before the defense could have its experts take fingerprints. Judge Quaintance noted that the defense has all of the fingerprints lifted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the defense did not ask to get their own fingerprints until after the car had been washed.