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Mohamed Noor (center)

I’m probably going to be posting a variety of short articles on the Noor trial whenever necessary.  Jury selection is done, and Judge Quaintance has said the trial could take up to a month. MPR suggests why:  

Both prosecutors and Noor’s attorneys have filed witness lists with the court as of Friday.

Noor’s attorneys list only three witnesses, while prosecutors list more than eight pages of people they may call to testify, including dozens of Minneapolis police officers.

One shouldn’t read too much into this. The state always has the burden of proof, and often calls more witnesses than the defense, which focuses on impeaching prosecution witnesses.  However, three does seem an unusually small number in a case of this import.  Expect the defense to wrangle more into their witness lineup.  The number of Minneapolis PD witnesses might be significant in that no competent prosecutor would use such witnesses, and certainly not in those numbers, unless they are certain they would help prove their case. In this case, that likely means they’ll testify to Noor’s unfitness.

Justine Damond

Also from MPR, some insight into why Judge Quaintance wants to peek the public from seeing body camera footage:

I am trying to protect pictures of this woman naked and her gasping for breath in the last moments of her life,’ Judge Kathryn Quaintance said of Ruszczyk, who was shot and killed by Noor in July 2017.

The video could be pivotal to the case, Quaintance said, and it shows officers’ reactions and Ruszczyk’s bare breast exposed because responders had to remove some clothing to administer CPR.

While that sounds polite, Minnesota law may not allow it, and one can easily construct an argument that the public is better served by seeing the full consequences of crimes.

Scott Johnson of Powerline, who is, with some difficulty, sitting in on the trial, offers additional insight:

 Judge Quaintance is a decisive and knowledgeable judge. The prosecutors seem comfortable with her. Indeed, they may have timed the filing of the case against Noor in the hope that it would result in her presiding on the case. I was nevertheless astounded, and not in a good way, by her comments at the media hearing yesterday afternoon.

In a separate article Johnson added:  

I want you to know that this is a very Minneapolis jury, heavily weighted with true believers in the diversity mantra. Despite all the talk of “implicit bias” and all the rest in the organs of liberal opinion such as the Star Tribune, I think that Noor’s minority status will be an advantage to him in the defense of the case.

This is expected in Minneapolis which is a bastion of leftist true believers.  Is it possible the jury might acquit Noor because he is a black Somali Muslim, even though leftists tend to reflexively hate the police?  Tragically, it is.  In the rest of Johnson’s article, he notes what appears to be unprofessional behavior by the judge.  By all means, take the link.  As he is a local attorney, I defer to his judgment, though Quaintance’s ruling on shielding evidence from the public may be faulty, and Johnson agrees.  We shall see.

Commenting in response to Update 28, regular reader “Rick” asked:

Mike, I just realized something. Was Noor sitting with his sidearm in his lap? How easy is it to unholster from a seated position? Allow for all the other gear normally found on a police officer’s belt, etc.

My speculation is that Noor was sitting with his firearm already in his hand. This would suggest two things; that he thought that danger did exist in the alley, and that he had no intention of exiting the squad car.

On the other hand, if his firearm was holstered up to the moment that Damond *may* have slapped the car, is Noor that much of a quick draw? Just how many seconds from Damond arriving to the squad car to Noor shooting her? Noor would have had to unholster, draw, aim, squeeze the trigger in what I speculate to be a few seconds. That seems improbable. Therefore, I am going with my speculation that Noor already had his firearm at the ready.

That means he expected trouble in a dangerous environment. Yet he wasn’t about to exit the car. How normal is that in police work?

One must allow police officers considerable latitude in when to draw their handgun.  One does not need a specifically articulable reason to do it.  It may be nothing more than a hunch or a feeling.  I always listened to my feelings.  The difference is, I was in control of myself, kept my finger out of the trigger guard, and never came close to shooting anyone or anything unless I could clearly identify it, the backdrop, and an actual threat.

Drawing in a cramped police vehicle is difficult, particularly if one has not practiced it, and most police officers don’t.  Particularly for a right-handed front seat passenger, the primary issue is elbow room. Move your right arm as if to draw a holstered handgun and you’ll see what I mean.  As I’ve often noted, most cops are not good shots, nor are they tactically aware.

Media accounts strongly suggest Harrity has said Noor was holding his handgun in his lap.  We don’t know precisely when he drew it, but it’s likely he did it before, or shortly after, entering the alley.  If so, there would seem to be no cause beyond hunch or feeling.  That neither of them parked the car and walked the alley belies any argument they anticipated imminent danger, as does Harrity’s apparent testimony that they were entirely relaxed at the end of the alley, waiting for a passing bicyclist and answering, or ready to answer, the next call for service.

But nothing so obliterates any argument they were anticipating danger than their apparent complete lack of situational awareness and their shocked surprise at even the hint of Justine Damond near their car.  Spooked, bang, dead.

Glock 17, a common police handgun

The average officer, from a secured holster, cannot draw and accurately hit a target in two seconds, and this standing on a well-lit range awaiting a command to draw on a fixed target at a known—short–distance.  For most, particularly seated as Noor was, the process is much more time consuming. Again, best current information is Noor was unholstered and Harrity was not.  Apparently nothing surprised him more than Noor’s gun going off in his face despite Harrity being in the best position to see and hear anything.

How normal was it?  On one hand, some officers are pretty lazy.  Some might run an entire shift getting out of their vehicle only for lunch or at the end of the shift.  Noor obviously didn’t expect trouble.  The type of call they were on is absolutely routine, and seldom, if ever, presents any danger.  I suspect Noor was merely paranoid, even terrified .

Officers may legitimately draw their weapons innumerable times and nothing comes of it.  Usually, the public never sees it, particularly on a night shift, so it normally is unremarkable.  However, the prosecution, if they have any ability, will portray it as what it likely was: the unwarranted act of a fearful, paranoid, panicky guy who should never have been given a badge and gun, who when drawing his gun, was far more likely to use it than other officers, and far more likely to use it without cause.

Don’t expect daily revelations, gentle readers.  Testimony with a large number of witnesses is often little more than laying a foundation for later testimony, or introducing a fact or two.