March 21, 2018 09:15 AM
A former assistant U.S. attorney said the way the moment-by-moment account was drafted in a criminal complaint of the shooting death of Justine Damond last July is a prelude to how prosecutors might make their closing arguments if the former officer who shot her, Mohamed Noor, is brought to trial.
Steven Schleicher, the former assistant U.S. attorney now with the firm Maslon in Minneapolis, said prosecutors appear to be drawing a contrast between the actions of Noor and his partner at the scene, Matthew Harrity, two officers who were hired at similar dates and went through the same training, but handled the same situation on July 15 in a distinctly different manner.
"So I think that is pretty telling of what the prosecution is going to do in their closing argument," Schleicher said. "To set up the contrast between the two officers. To say, 'One officer fired and one didn't; one officer's conduct was reasonable, the other's was not.'"
But before attorneys have a chance to make closing arguments, much has to happen in the case.
The process began Tuesday when Noor turned himself in to jail on charges of second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder in Damond's death.
Noor becomes the second Minnesota police officer in 16 months to be charged in the fatal shooting of a civilian. A jury acquitted former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez in June of similar charges in connection to the death of Philando Castile.
Schleicher said murder cases typically go to trial within a year from the date of charges, but that this case could go to trial sooner, given the defense attorney's experience with the case to date.
Noor was in jail Tuesday on $500,000 bail and will make his first court appearance Wednesday. If he doesn't enter a plea then, an arraignment hearing will be scheduled. If he pleads not guilty at arraignment, attorneys for both sides will begin the discovery process in which the prosecution will provide the defense with all evidence it has against Noor.
The defense then could file a motion or motions to challenge evidence for a judge to review at an omnibus hearing, Schleicher said. A judge would eventually decide which evidence to allow to be introduced at trial, and for what exactly Noor will be placed on trial.
Among motions Noor's attorney, Tom Plunkett, could file is one for a change of trial venue out of Hennepin County. But Schleicher said it's unlikely the venue would be moved.
"I think a change of venue motion is fairly common practice in a case that has this high of a profile," Schleicher said. "What the defense will have to argue is that the publicity surrounding the events is so prejudicial and so pervasive that … officer Noor would not be able to get a fair trial in Hennepin County.
"In a case where the coverage has been fairly consistent and, frankly, statewide – as in the coverage up in Koochiching County is probably the same as it is in Hennepin – it's a bit of an uphill climb for the defense to argue that there's something unusual or particular about the coverage in Hennepin County that would make it different than any other venue."
Noor is scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in front of Hennepin County Judge Kathryn Quaintance. Former U.S. attorney Tom Heffelfinger said it's possible Noor will seek a reduction in bail at the hearing.
Assuming Noor pleads not guilty, Heffelfinger said he would expect a trial to begin in the fall.
Updated: March 21, 2018 09:15 AM
Created: March 20, 2018 08:24 PM
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