The prosecution in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor continued yesterday with the cross-examination of officer Jesse Lopez as well as the testimony of officer Joseph Grout, Lieutenant Dan May, and Sergeant Robert Lewis, all of the Minneapolis police department. Performing the task of spinning yesterday’s testimony into a narrative are Chao Xiong and Libor Jany in their Star Tribune story as well as Jon Collins and Riham Feshir in their MPR account. Their pieces give me the freedom to add stray comments or expand on items of interest or pick out whatever I think needs emphasis. That’s what I think I’m doing in this series.
I find the headlines of the daily stories of interest. In this case, the Star Tribune and MPR have gone in different directions. I think the Star Tribune gets it right today (more below). I am not sure I’ve ever said that before, but there it is.
In Thursday’s proceedings, both the Star Tribune and MPR headlines focused on the advice given to Noor by an officer at the scene (Noor’s so-called escort officer) to keep quiet. I thought the most notable moment of Thursday’s testimony was Lieutenant Rick Zimmerman’s “WTF” testimony. Words of truth from the department’s senior homicide officer.
Let me repeat myself on one point. For background on the case I recommend the court’s Noor trial page. For more on the blow by blow doings I recommend the #Noortrial hashtag Twitter feed under the Latest tab.
Almost all the witnesses in this case will be called by the prosecution. The prosecution has listed more than ninety possible witnesses. It won’t call all of them; listing them preserves its rights to do so. Noor will make out his defense mostly from the prosecution’s witnesses. That’s just the way it goes in criminal cases.
Noor’s counsel has listed three possible witnesses; Noor is not on the list. As Judge Quaintance observed during a hearing on a contested point of evidence, it’s not clear how Noor will prove the Noor life story that Peter Wold advertised during his opening statement with these three witnesses. If he fails, Judge Quaintance will admonish the jury to ignore that component of the defense’s opening statement.
Yesterday the testimony of Lieutenant Dan May seemed to consume the lion’s share of the day. He has been on the force for 30 years. He makes a good appearance. He transferred to the Fifth Precinct in 2015 (where Noor killed Justine). In July 2017, at the time of Justine’s killing, he supervised the middle watch patrol shift. He responded to the “shots fired” call that went out that night from the scene. He testified to what he saw and identified the other officers on the scene.
From the first moment Peter Wold set out to cross-examine May he built him up (or accredited him, in the parlance of trial lawyers). The stripes on the dress uniform he was wearing in court reflect 30 years of service on the force. He was the commanding officer on the scene.
May testified to his pairing of Harrity and Noor as patrol officers. They were two of the younger precinct officers at the time of the incident. Younger officers, he testified are “more productive” than older officers. He thought highly of the two officers. Indeed, they were entrusted with high-powered patrol rifles acquired by the department after the 1997 incident in North Hollywood officers were outgunned by the bad guys. Only one or two other officers from the middle watch received the high-powered rifles.
May had to trust Noor and Harrity’s judgment to make this move. They had to be active officers for high-stress situations. That was May’s view of them.
This was all before the lunch break. After lunch Wold continued with the cross-examination, shifting his focus to the crime scene.
May observed Noor. He was shaken up, almost in shock. May explained the post-shooting critical incident protocol to him.
At this point Wold elicited testimony from May regarding his precinct briefings on the ambush of police officers. He discussed the incidents that raised his concerns about the ambush of police officers, both nationally and in Minneapolis. The relevance of the Minneapolis incidents was stretched on this point. The Star Tribune story provides some of this ambush testimony in detail.
The tension between the prosecution of this case by the Hennepin County Attorney and the Minneapolis Police Department was almost palpable in the courtroom on the redirect of May by Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton on an issue of fact that assumes the veracity of a point the prosecution disputes.
According to the defense, Justine banged on the officers’ squad car before Noor shot her. The prosecution suggests that the “bang” or “slap” was more or less invented by Sergeant Shannon Barnette, the senior officer first on the scene and therefore the critical incident officer managing it. Lofton asked whether ambushers usually warned the officer with a slap to their squad car. May hesitated before answering in the negative.