The trial of Mohamed Noor for the murder/manslaughter of Justine Ruszcyk continued yesterday before Judge Kathryn Quaintance in Hennepin Country District Court. The prosecutors called nine Minneapolis Police Department officers as witnesses as well as one Minneapolis Fire Department officer. A few observations:
• I think the prosecution is methodically calling all of the Minneapolis Police Department officers who arrived at the scene. The prosecution has the burden of proof and it is going to put in the available evidence.
• Yet not all of these officers have cooperated with the prosecution. There is an underlying tension that is occasionally manifested in the direct examination of the officers. Some of the officers have refused to meet with prosecutors to prepare for their testimony. I doubt that the jury has any idea of what is happening. It must be confusing.
• The Star Tribune frames this aspect of the case in the “blue wall of silence” related to another case in which another officer was prosecuted. This is an excellent article that addresses an issue implicit in this case from early on. MPR’s Jon Collins and Riham Feshir have a good story on what we learned about this aspect of the case yesterday here.
• The linked Star Tribune story quotes MPD lieutenant and police federation president Bob Kroll. Outside the hearing of the jury yesterday Judge Quaintance remarked that Kroll was in contempt of court for violating her sequestration order preventing witnesses from sitting in on the trial. Kroll had apparently attended in the overflow courtroom last week.
• The first witness called by the prosecution yesterday was Chief Mediaria Arrodondo. At the time of Justine’s killing he was the acting chief. Arrodondo came to the scene on the evening of the killing in that capacity. The prosecution made the point with Arrodondo that the department’s bodycam policy would have required Harrity and Noor to activate their bodycams as they drove down the alley behind her house if they anticipated an “adversarial situation.” The Star Tribune takes up yesterday’s testimony addressing bodycam evidence in this story.
• Arrodondo has not heard about “ambush” in connection with the case. The first time Arrodondo heard about “ambush” in connection with Justine’s killing was in the courtroom.
• Arrodondo was on the scene for eight hours. He did not hear anything about a slap on the car or other startling noise.
• Arrodondo used the term “sanctity of life” in his testimony. My notes are poor on this point, but that phrase stuck out. Justine’s killing is inexplicable.
• On his cross-examination of Arrodondo, Peter Wold made the point that Arrodondo observed some of the officers using flashlights. He also explored concerns about the ambush of officers. I thought this part of his cross was a dud, but the jury may see it otherwise.
• We saw a few more bodycam videos yesterday. They dramatically depict the officers driving to the scene with lights and sirens on. They depict CPR on Justine. They help jurors visualize the scene. Beyond that, they are deactivated or not particularlry useful.
• Among the MPD officers called yesterday was one Sergeant Jarrod Kunze. He seemed to have arrived from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Twilight Zone . He sported a bushy beard. His testimony was set on a 10-second time delay. He was weird. Out of the hearing of the jury, Judge Quaintance described his testimony as “odd.”
• Kunze had earlier described the scene as like a desert. What did he mean? He meant it was quiet, there were no bystanders, there were no houses with lights on in the neighborhood.
• Kunze testified that he wrote a report of his investigation at the scene. If it ever existed, however, Kunze’s report on his investigation at the scene has been lost or been sucked into a time warp. The tension between the prosecutor and Kunze was palpable.
• On cross, Peter Wold elicited the observation that Noor “appeared to be slightly detached.”
• Kunze was followed by Officer Ty Jindra. Jindra makes a good appearance as a witness; he looks like a choir boy. He is one of the guys who refused to meet with the prosecutors. He also refused to meet with defendant’s counsel.
• Given the noncooperation of key police witnesses, the Hennepin County Attorney used a grand jury to subpoena officers and take their testimony. Officer Matthew Harrity was Noor’s partner. He is a crucial witness. He was called before the grand jury. He is one of the noncooperators.
I am not doing justice to the case in my hot takes here. If you seriously want to follow the case, please add the Star Tribune and MPR reports to your reading. They do a good job of summarizing events day by day.