I inferred that Mohamed Noor was going to testify on his own behalf from defense counsel Peter Wold’s opening statement, but his intentions remained unclear. This morning we learned that Noor was going to take the stand, as indeed he did when prosecution expert Timothy Longo concluded his testimony and the prosecution rested its case. I have to leave early for court tomorrow morning. I am filing this special edition of this series tonight so I don’t have to worry about it tomorrow.
The prosecution is not quite done cross-examining Noor. The cross-examination will continue this morning. The Star Tribune focuses on Noor’s testimony here, MPR here. With that as background, these are my thoughts and impressions, beginning with the conclusion of Longo’s testimony.
• Longo made for a spectacular expert witness. His background, experience, demeanor, and testimony are stellar. I thought that Peter Wold got roughly nowhere with Longo on cross-examination. He emphasized that Harrity’s startled reaction to the alleged slap on the squad and silhouette to his left could not have warranted the use of deadly force by Harrity or Noor. Peter was unable to dent this judgment.
• Peter tried to make the point that Longo had never had to make the split-second life or death decision that Noor had to make. Longo went into impressive detail on three such incidents in which he had chosen not to shoot.
• On redirect, prosecutor Amy Sweasy emphasized that Longo had not had the benefit of any statement from Noor on what he saw before he shot. He remained in the courtroom for Noor’s testimony. Now that he has heard it, he may be recalled by the prosecution for rebuttal. That should be interesting. The state rested its case with Longo’s testimony.
• The defense called Noor. Defense counsel Tom Plunkett conducted the direct examination. This is the first time Noor has talked about the case for public consumption. It was an incredibly dramatic moment in the trial. The jurors paid close attention. Some of them seem to me in Noor’s corner.
• On direct examination Noor told the life story that Peter Wold had advertised in his opening statement. Noor made for a good witness on direct. He is soft-spoken, respectful, dignified, and he had a story to tell. He broke down a few times as he testified. At worst, his story seemed slightly overrehearsed.
• Getting to the heart of it, Noor testified that he heard a loud bang. Previously known as a “slap” or a “thump,” it has grown like Topsy.
• Noor saw Harrity look out the driver’s side, shout “Oh, Jesus,” fumble to unholster his gun and look at Noor with terror in his eyes. Noor then pulled his gun, reached his left arm across Harrity’s body and held him back as he looked out and saw a woman with blonde hair wearing a pink t-shirt.
• Noor says he saw Justine raise her right arm, but did not see her hand. He saw no weapon. He nevertheless deemed her a “threat,” as he called her, and fired one shot at her.
• Noor testified that he fired because he perceived his partner to be in fear of death or great bodily harm. He feared death or great bodily harm based on what he saw of his partner and of Justine combined.
• Harrity had testified that all he saw was a silhouette and he had no problem unholstering his gun. Their stories don’t mesh.
• Noor made the stoner bicyclist sound like he may have been part of an impending police ambush. Noor testified that he saw the bicyclist stop in the street in front of him just before the loud bang. (The bicyclist testified he kept moving by the police because he didn’t want to get stopped with weed on him. I think I believe the bicyclist.) Were it not for the tragedy, this aspect of the defense would be laughable. Ambush in southwest Minneapolis, the safest neighborhood in the city.
• As Plunkett concluded his direct examination, Noor stated that he acted out of concern for both his and his partner’s safety.
• That’s where Sweasy picked up her cross-examination. Concern for their safety doesn’t cut it. It has to be death or great bodily harm. So he got back to that, but Sweasy instantly made hash of his legal defense.
• Sweasy is a brutally effective cross-examiner. Her tone verges on the mean and nasty if it is not already there. It works wonderfully well with me, but I wonder about the jury.
• Sweasy caught Noor in many inconsistencies. Itemizing them goes beyond the scope of what I am trying to do here. She seemed to me highly effective in impugning Noor’s credibility, causing him to resort to formulaic answers such as “I relied on my training.”
• If Noor is lying or shading the truth, however, why doesn’t he go all the way and say he saw something in Justine’s hand that he thought was a weapon? Instead he testified he couldn’t see her hands and thought “she might have had a weapon.”
• In Sergeant Barnette’s bodycam video, Noor is seated in a squad car after the incident, waiting to be taken to City Hall. In the silent (buffering) portion of the video, he can be seen demonstrating how he aimed his gun and shot out the open window on the driver’s side. It doesn’t match his testimony. He testified he doesn’t recall what he was doing in the video.
• In several other respects, Noor’s memory is in fact highly convenient, to say the least.
KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse saves his best stuff for Twitter. Below is one of the highlights he picked out from Sweasy’s cross.
Noor then said "I fired once. The threat took a couple steps back…"
Sweasy: Did you just say "the threat" took a couple steps back?
Sweasy: "The whole blonde hair, pink t-shirt and all is a threat to you?"#NoorTrial #JustineDamond
— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) April 25, 2019