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As regular readers may recall, the trial of Mohamed Noor in the death of Justine Damond is currently scheduled to begin on April 1. The irony in that date cannot be overstated, given the bizarre behavior of the prosecutor—Mike Freeman—in this case. The case—the SMM Damond archive is here–is proceeding on two tracks: the civil suit again Minneapolis, and pre-trial maneuvering, primarily by the defense, as The Guardian reports:

Lawyers for the ex-police officer who fatally shot Australian Justine Damond in the US have abandoned their bid to re-enact the event using a squad car in moonlight conditions similar to the night of her death.

Mohamed Noor’s lawyers had asked for urgent access to the SUV, because the moon would be in the same phase as the night in July 2017 when Noor shot Damond in a Minneapolis alley. But Hennepin County Judge Kathryn Quaintance ruled late on Friday that Noor and his lawyers could only have access to a similar Ford Explorer squad car to the one Noor was in one the night, and they could examine it at a police precinct rather than take it to the alley.

Justine Damond

It’s an interesting fact—even a superstition—that police agencies tend to immediately retire vehicles directly involved in a death.  Some go so far as to have them crushed and/or shredded. Retirement was the case with the vehicle driven by Officer Matthew Harrity—Noor was the front seat passenger–that night.  In any case, absent some showing that the specific vehicle involved had some unusual feature not included in others of its kind, something that could have some bearing on how or why Noor shot Damond, there would be nothing to be gained or lost by using that exact vehicle for purposes of reenactment.  One Ford Explorer with standard police equipment is essentially identical to another in any way that might matter.  Presumably, Noor’s lawyers secured access to the vehicle immediately after he was charged?  Apparently not:

The US lawyer for Damond’s family, Bob Bennett, had described as ‘silliness’ the prospect of trying to re-enact the shooting in Minneapolis’s -11C winter weather, despite the shooting having happened in the summer. ‘Obviously they can’t be replicated in December when there’s no leaves on the trees and there’s snow on the ground…

Obviously.

Bennett has filed a $US50m civil lawsuit on behalf of Damond’s family against Noor, his police partner on the night of the shooting, Officer Matthew Harrity, and the city of Minneapolis. [skip]

Noor’s attorney, Peter Wold, declined to comment on the importance of moon phases. The moon was supposed to be about 60% full on Friday night but weather reports for Minneapolis showed partly cloudy skies. Noor has declined to speak with investigators about the shooting. Harrity told them that he and Noor ‘got spooked’ when Damond approached in the darkness.

Of course.  Being “spooked” is plentiful justification for anything—including murder—an officer does in response to whatever spooked him. I mean, why not?  Of course, a “spooked” standard is going to mean a great many additional dead citizens.

SBS.com suggests Noor’s lawyers are a bit slow off the mark:

His lawyers noted in their request to gain access to a police vehicle for
Friday’s tests the squad car Noor was in on the night of the shooting was not preserved.

They plan ‘to independently gather information, make measurements and allow testing and analysis’ with the vehicle that is made available.

They’re just getting around to that now?!  Among the first things any competent defense lawyer would do is move to preserve any and every potential bit of evidence.  They may be planning to use this to argue that the prosecution somehow prejudiced their client by not preserving things the defense didn’t ask them to preserve.

There has been yet more pre-trial maneuvering, which The Minneapolis Star Tribune, one of the most socialist former newspapers in the nation, spins to the detriment of the prosecution:

The murder case against former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor took a hit Friday [03-01-19] when a judge restricted prosecutors from presenting several pieces of evidence at his upcoming trial, including the officer’s prior work performance and a psychological exam.

Noor (left)

 [Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn] Quaintance ruled that prosecutors could not use Noor’s ‘prior acts’ as a police officer against him, including a 2017 incident in which he pointed a gun at a motorist during a traffic stop and accusations that he occasionally refused to respond to police calls while he was in training.

The evidence is ‘not relevant,’ the judge said, adding that its value is outweighed by the ‘unfair prejudice’ it could impose.

This is, as always, a judgment call.  The video depicts Noor approaching the car with his gun already drawn.  He apparently does not point his handgun directly at the driver.  It is not unusual for officers to place their hands on their handgun in such situations, and it is not unheard of for them to draw.  The officer accompanying Noor also approaches with his gun drawn.  Without knowing a great deal more, it’s impossible to draw conclusions about this 2017 traffic stop.

Quaintance also ruled that Noor’s refusal to speak with a state investigator about the shooting can only be used as evidence by prosecutors if he takes the witness stand. The defense had filed a motion to bar it from trial, but prosecutors argued that state law and U.S. Supreme Court precedent allow using it to impeach a defendant who testifies.

‘It seems to me that the right not to incriminate oneself is a pretty seminal constitutional right,’ Quaintance said.

What the “Strib,” as it is called in that part of the country is not telling readers is there is nothing unusual in any of this. The 5thAmendment right against self-incrimination is pretty much absolute. Defendants do not have to testify, and the jury is instructed not to draw any negative inference from this, but when they do testify, they “open the door” to cross-examination.  This too is nothing unusual, in fact, it’s based on the same established legal principles:

In a similar ruling, Quaintance said that assistant Hennepin County attorneys Amy Sweasy and Patrick Lofton can use Noor’s 2015 pre-employment psychological exam only if he testifies at trial and the exam becomes relevant.

These rulings are interesting:

* All charges against Noor will be tried at once instead of separating the second-degree murder count into another case as the defense had requested.

*  Potential jurors will be questioned in a group setting during jury selection and not alone in the courtroom as requested by the prosecution.

Both are normal procedure.

* A defense motion to play a 15-minute instructional video about implicit bias to jurors was denied.

Lofton argued the video included ‘objectionable imagery’ such as racial segregation in the south and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II that were irrelevant to the case.

Quaintance said she would allow attorneys to ask jurors about implicit bias during jury selection and would consider addressing it in her instructions to the jury.

In other words, the defense intends to play the race, immigrant and Muslim cards.  Noor is being persecuted because he’s black, Somali and Muslim, and as everyone knows, those cards provide absolute immunity for virtually everything, including murder. It just might work in Minneapolis. The other potential view of playing such cards is that black, Muslim Somalis, by the very nature of those characteristics, cannot be trusted not to murder innocent citizens.

* The prosecution will be allowed to present evidence that before Damond’s call, someone else had called police to request a welfare check on a woman on the street who possibly had dementia. Noor and Harrity responded to the call but did not find the woman.

This, previously unknown, is a significant issue:

Prosecutors wrote in a previous court filing that the officers responded to Damond’s call in the same vicinity about an hour-and-a-half later. Noor should have considered the previous call in relation to Damond’s call, the prosecution argued.

‘He should have known this person approaching his vehicle was likely a 911 caller or a woman in need of help,’ the prosecution wrote. ‘It was his duty to take the seconds it would have required to assess the person approaching his vehicle, or at the very least, issue commands or ask questions before acting with deadly force.’

This is obviously part of the Prosecution’s strategy, as well it should be.  Officers are responsible for knowing what is going on in their districts.  Knowing of the previous call, Noor and Harrity—his partner and driver that night—should have suspected the Damond 911 call could be related to the early call of a possibly demented woman.  Any reasonable police officer should therefore be less, rather than more, likely to shoot at movement or sound.  In essence, this makes Noor even more reckless, and Harrity even more hapless.

Pity Matthew Harrity.  If he tells the truth, Noor is in deep trouble.  If he tries to hedge things to help out Noor, he’s in deep trouble.  His only salvation is to admit what most likely happened:  Noor was frightened before they ever entered the alley, and drew his handgun.  They used poor tactics, and when they stopped at the end of the alley to wait for a passing bicyclist, they relaxed too soon–a rookie cop mistake.  They never took the call seriously, and likely forgot all about the earlier call.  Whether Damond rapped on the police vehicle or not, Harrity said they were both “spooked”—they had no situational awareness–and the next thing Harrity knew, there was a flash in his face, his ears were ringing, gunsmoke was swirling around him, and Damond was dying.  That was surely an epic “oh shit” moment.  In other words, Harrity is going to have to admit they were incompetent. They had no situational awareness, and Noor made the mother of all pooch screws.

The article notes the Defense wants to use their own “use of force expert,” who would have to be willing to testify that police officers with no situational awareness are perfectly justified in shooting at sound or movement, even if it kills people.  Were I a prosecutor, I’d love the chance to cross-examine anyone asserting that.

As I’ve previously observed, the defense will have to argue that any reasonable police officer, so unaware of his surroundings he became “spooked” or startled by a sound that might not have occurred at all, is thereby empowered to shoot and kill anyone or anything within sound or sight.  He may even legitimately shoot at what might or might not be movement, or perhaps a shadow, or nothing at all.  Any competent prosecutor would love to rebut that argument. Unfortunately, Freeman’s behavior in this case does not give one confidence he can, or intends to.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, as Leftist as a former newspaper can be, recently published an article about Somali gang violence.  They’re very concerned about how murderous gangs of Somalis might cause some people to think badly of murderous gangs of Somalis, and other Somali killers:

Some residents shied away from talking about the gang violence because they worry that, much like with the upcoming murder trial of fired Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor for the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond and the recent high-profile prosecutions of young east African men bent on joining extremist groups in the Middle East and Africa, the Somali community will ultimately be blamed for the bad actions of a few.

Justine and Don Damond

Gee, I can’t think of why anyone would be concerned about that kind of thing.  Leftists categorize and judge everyone by favored victim status, and believe Normal Americans are as narrow-minded and reactionary as they are. Normal Americans judge individuals as individuals, though they’re more than smart enough to know some individuals, because of their cultures, and in groups, are particularly dangerous.

More as it develops.