March 21, 2018 10:21 PM
St. Paul attorney Earl Gray spoke to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Wednesday about his successful defense of former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, and compared that case to current charges against Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.
Noor was charged Tuesday by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of south Minneapolis resident Justine Damond last July.
He was released from jail after posting bond Wednesday night.
Gray said he never doubted he would gain an acquittal last year when he defended Yanez after the former police officer was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.
"No, I never worried that Yanez would be found innocent," he said. "We felt the jury would follow the law and be fair, and when we presented our defense, the jury did listen and it did follow the law and that's why Yanez prevailed."
Gray said pre-trial publicity will be an obstacle for Noor's defense team, but added asking to have the trial moved to another city might not be best in this case.
"What you want, ideally, is a fair jury of your peers," Gray said. "The problem Mr. Noor has is that if he expects to get any Somalians on the jury, it's going to be in Minneapolis, and therefore you probably do not want to change the venue."
Gray said the biggest difference he sees in the two cases is the fact that Castile, who had a legal permit to carry a gun, was armed at the time of his encounter with Yanez.
"We told the jury that Mr. Castile was armed at the time of the incident, but in this case you have a woman in pajamas who is not armed," Gray said.
Gray also supported Noor's decision not to talk with investigators while he was under legal scrutiny prior to charges being filed against him.
"Officer Noor, like every other American citizen, has a Fifth Amendment right to not give a statement if he does not want to," he said. "And, nothing can be held against him for not giving a statement."
Like he did with Yanez, Gray expects Noor's defense lawyers to argue their client thought his life could be in danger when he was startled by Damond when she pounded on the squad car as she approached Noor and his partner.
"That is something Noor's partner told investigators, according to the complaint, that they were 'spooked,'" Gray said. "So I think you will hear the same from Noor's defense at some point, arguing he pulled the trigger with the belief his safety was in jeopardy."
Gray disagreed with the third-degree murder charge against Noor.
"I think it is not warranted nor appropriate," he said. "But I am not the judge, and so I guess we will see how appropriate it is if the judge weighs in on that charge."
Updated: March 21, 2018 10:21 PM
Created: March 21, 2018 08:03 PM
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