The case against Mohamed Noor in the death of Justine Damond has just taken another odd turn. As I’ve previously written—the SMM Justine Damond archive is here—Prosecutor Mike Freeman has behaved strangely indeed in this case. He’s at it again. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
In a court filing dated Thursday, prosecutors said they want to charge Mohamed Noor with intentional second-degree murder in the July 15, 2017, death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Authorities said Noor shot Damond after she called 9
Noor is already charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. In their request to add the second-degree murder count, prosecutors said the evidence shows Noor intended to kill Damond when he aimed and fired at her.
‘A person acts with the intent to kill not just when they have the purpose of causing death, but also when they believe that their act, if successful, will result in death,’ prosecutors wrote.
‘As a trained police officer, the defendant was fully aware that such a shot would kill Ms. Ruszczyk, a result he clearly intended,’ they added. [skip]
Minnesota rules allow criminal complaints to be amended before trial. It will be up to a judge to grant the request. Noor is scheduled to face trial April 1.
It’s difficult to imagine what Freeman is thinking. He seems now to be charging a specific intent crime, in effect giving himself a higher burden of proof. One might speculate that by charging this more serious crime, he is fishing for a pleas bargain to one of the lesser charges, likely manslaughter, but that is far from a certainty, even if the judge allows the new charge.
Peter Wold, one of Noor’s attorneys, said he hasn’t seen any new evidence since Noor was initially charged. When asked if an additional count would postpone trial, he said he doubted it, adding: ‘We’re ready.’ [skip]
Damond’s father, John Ruszczyk, has filed a $50 million civil rights lawsuit against Noor, the city and others. That case has been put on hold while the criminal case proceeds.
Another news account suggests a bit more. Fox 9 News reports:
In the motion filed Thursday, prosecutors argue there is evidence Noor intended to kill Damond when he aimed and fired at her.
‘Interestingly, the assertions made by the defendant in his probable cause brief that the defendant saw, observed, pointed at, aimed at and fired a single shot at Ms. Ruszczyk with the knowledge of what he was doing and who he was doing it to do also support the theory that the defendant committed an intentional homicide,’ the court documents say.
As I’ve also previously written, because I don’t have access to the police reports and all documents filed with the court, it’s difficult to know precisely what is going on. I retain the suspicion that Freeman is setting himself up for failure. Whether this is through general incompetence or part of the kind of political chicanery one expects in places like Minneapolis is unclear.
It appears Freeman is now going to have to argue that Noor knew exactly who and what Damond was, and shot her with specific intent to kill her. For the remaining charges, he is going to have to argue that Noor, having no idea who or what Damond was, perhaps seeing only movement, or even firing at sound, negligently fired, striking and killing Damond. It would seem rather hard to argue both, and no competent prosecutor wants to confuse a jury. That leads to mistrials or acquittals.
If Freeman is trying to acquit Noor, he will do everything he can to avoid a trial, or at trial, avoid introducing any evidence that would reflect poorly on the Minneapolis Police Department’s recruitment and training of Noor. Regular readers will recall that Minneapolis authorities lauded Noor as the realization of their policies of diversity and inclusion. He was the vanguard of a new day of Somali inclusion in the political life of Minneapolis.
To this point, suggestions that Noor was dangerously unfit for the job, and this was known to the MPD, which fast tracked his training, lack the sheen of testimony and evidence. They can be ignored as mere conjecture. But introduce this in court, and progressive policies, which can never fail, will be seen as failures.
This is also why it’s highly likely Minneapolis will settle the civil suit, and for a considerable sum. That way they’ll be able to claim they paid off simply to avoid the hassle, and have to admit nothing. the city and MPD will be able to continue, as always, on the path of progressive purity.
Perhaps I’m being too cynical. Perhaps I’m imputing deeper motives when mere incompetence would be an adequate explanation. Perhaps I’m wrong, and Freeman knows exactly what he’s doing and is on the path to an easy conviction. Given the known evidence, that would not seem out of the question.
Little about this case has followed normal, professional practice. The trial is not scheduled until April 1. There’s irony. Absent leaks, we’re unlikely to find any real answers before then, but I’ll write as developments warrant.