Noor pleads not guilty, judge rules on motions

Friday, March 01, 2019

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty to the murder charges he faces in the shooting death of Justine Damond Ruszczyk.

During the approximately 30 minute court hearing Friday morning, Hennepin County District Court Judge Kathryn Quaintance ruled on motions that had been raised by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and by Noor’s attorneys. Noor is scheduled to go on trial April 1 on charges of second-degree murder third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the shooting late on the night of July 15, 2017.

Prosecutors asked that three incidents from 16 months to two months before Noor shot Damond Ruszczyk be allowed into the trial. In one of those, Noor pulled out his gun as he approached a driver he pulled over for a traffic violation and had it pointed at the driver’s head for a moment. Judge Quaintance denied that motion.

However, she did allow a prosecution motion to bring into evidence a 911 call less than two hours before Noor fired his shot, involving an elderly woman, possibly suffering from dementia. Prosecutors, in their brief, pointed out that the call on the elderly woman took the officers within 140 feet of the alley where Damond Ruszczyk was shot, and it was a call similar to the one Damond Ruszczyk made of a woman in distress. Finally, there was more than one call to 911 detailing the course the elderly woman was taking and it could have put her in the exact location Damond Ruszczyk called about.

“This is evidence of what Officer Noor knew at the time of the incident,” Judge Quaintance said.

Judge Quaintance ruled that the prosecution could not bring in the fact that Noor never gave any statement, even right after the shooting, about what happened. Nor could prosecutors use Noor’s psychological exam from the time the Minneapolis Police Department hired him.

However, Judge Quaintance did say that if Noor testifies during the trial, some of the evidence she had denied might be able to come in to impeach his testimony.

Judge Quaintance denied a defense motion to severe the three charges into separate trials. And she agreed with the prosecution that the defense may not call witnesses to testify about Noor’s state of mind on July 15.

One issue was not decided and may result in another hearing three days before the trial. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has raised questions about the credentials of the defense’s use-of-force expert, Emanuel Kapelsohn.

“Either side has the right to cross examine on the qualifications,” of an expert witness, she said.