Prosecutors seek to seal case files in Mohamed Noor murder case

September 19, 2018 GMT

Prosecutors in the murder case against Mohamed Noor moved to seal thousands of pieces of evidence from the fired Minneapolis police officers psychological records to transcripts of grand jury proceedings whose disclosure they contended would preclude a fair trial.

In a 10-page filing Wednesday afternoon, the Hennepin County Attorneys Office argued that the sealing was necessary to preserve the integrity of the judicial process.

Public disclosure will have the irreversible effect of preventing the defendant from receiving a fair trial in this case and any other collateral legal proceedings, prosecutors said. Wednesdays filing was the latest in a flurry of motions by both sides leading up to a Sept. 27 probable cause hearing before Judge Kathryn Quaintance. The request does not include closing that hearing.

The memo argued that because investigative data entered into evidence in court becomes public, the motion requests that evidence be reviewed privately to ensure that confidential data are not made public prematurely.

Among that evidence, the filing said, were the names and addresses of civilians and MPD officers who would undoubtedly be contacted by the media if the information were released.

A spokesman for the county attorneys office declined to comment. Thomas Plunkett, one of Noors attorneys, also declined to comment.

Noor faces charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond last summer. Prosecutors say that Noor shot the 40-year-old Australia native from inside his police SUV while responding to her 911 call near her south Minneapolis home. Noors attorneys maintain that he acted in self-defense.

Noor becomes the first police officer statewide in recent memory to be charged with murder for an on-duty killing. An appeal of his firing from the department has been put on hold pending the outcome of his criminal trial, union officials said.

Since the trove of evidence was collected or created by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in preparation of the case, prosecutors argued that it should be considered investigative data, whose release under state data practices law is only allowed once the investigation is closed.

The other evidence includes a police e-mail about off-duty work, seven grand jury transcripts, as well as body and dashboard camera footage and other case files from a May 2017 traffic stop in which Noor and a police colleague pulled their guns out on a motorist after pulling him over for a minor moving violation.

Prosecutors said the evidence also contains information not germane to that issue that would first have to be redacted, singling out the testimony of one unidentified grand jury witness that runs more than 100 pages.

The court is qualified to review that testimony and determine what evidence contained therein is relevant to the issue of probable cause. The public is not. The media are not, prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors previously argued that Noors psychological screening raised red flags in early 2015, revealing a level of disaffiliativeness that may be incompatible with public safety requirements. The revelations came in response to a motion to dismiss the charges filed against Noor made by his attorneys, who accused prosecutors of misleading the court by releasing only portions of his psychological and training records.

Noor is also the subject of two federal lawsuits that are still stuck in pretrial proceedings, including a $50 million wrongful death suit brought by Damonds father, John Ruszczyk.

Another suit was filed weeks before Damonds death by a south Minneapolis woman who says that Noor and two other officers violated her constitutional rights by placing her on an involuntary mental health hold.

Libor Jany 612-673-4064 Twitter:@StribJany