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Jurors will hear final testimony & closing statements Monday then deliberate the fate of Mohamed Noor

April 28, 2019 10:23 PM

Monday is a pivotal day in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor.

The 33-year-old Noor is charged with three counts:  intentional murder, unintentional murder and manslaughter for the on-duty death of a civilian.

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Forty-year-old Justine Ruzszcyk Damond was unarmed, wearing pajamas when she died before officers eyes on July 15, 2017, in an alley behind her South Minneapolis home.  Damond had called 911 twice, to report a possible sexual assault.  The shooting is controversial, and jurors are poised to decide if it's also criminal.

Hennepin County prosecutors will rely on one more witness to challenge Noor's testimony:  a threat existed, he and his partner feared an ambush.  While on the witness stand, Noor said he didn't shoot to kill. Rather, he said he shot to stay alive.  Steve Schleicher is a former federal prosecutor who is now in private practice at Maslon LLP and is not involved with the case.

 "Most people are trained whether we know it or not, to defer to law enforcement, we want to believe them," Schleicher said.

Noor's defense team of Tom Plunkett and Peter Wold, intend to capitalize on that sentiment.  During closing statements on Monday, they will remind jurors the reasons they think his actions were justified.  

Throughout the trial, no one has alleged Damond, a yoga teacher and life coach, did anything more menacing than "spook" the officers while approaching their squad car.  The jury of 12 men and four women must consider whether any of the three felony charges fit what happened.

More: Defense rests case in Noor trial, closing arguments expected Monday

 "It would be possible for a jury to convict on one charge and acquit on another one or more, they're going to have to look at each one individually and answer those questions," Schleicher said.

State records show murder charges are rare in officer-involved shootings and convictions even more so.  Only one other officer, Jeronimo Yanez, has been charged with shooting and killed a civilian, Philando Castile.  Yanez was acquitted.  To overcome those kinds of odds, prosecutors must convince 12 people that the deadly force used by Noor isn't what a reasonable officer in the same situation would do.

Once closing statements are completed, Judge Katherine Quaintance will give the jury instructions which define and explain the law as it applies to this case. She will also indicate how the evidence should be weighed, then jurors will begin deliberations.  No one on the panel will go home until a verdict is reached as they are being sequestered.

A conviction on any of the three charges, would mean prison time, the range is from 3 years to 40 years. 

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Beth McDonough

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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