Having covered the 2019 trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Ruskcyk Damond, I attended Noor’s resentencing this morning by Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance. When I say “covered,” I mean every day from inside the courtroom at a seat behind Justine’s family that I snagged when the New York Times proved a no-show.
Resentencing was necessitated by the Minnesota Supreme Court decision that set aside Noor’s conviction of third-degree murder. Noor was resentenced on the lesser second-degree manslaughter offense of which he was also convicted.
Justine’s parents, Justine’s brother and sister-in-law, and Justine’s fiancé, Don Damond, each provided extremely eloquent and moving victim impact statements. All the statements were read by Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy and her colleague Patrick Lofton with the excepetion of Damond’s. Damond appeared via Zoom.
Sweasy made a powerful argument for a sentence at the upper end of the applicable sentencing guidelines — 57 months. Defense counsel Jerome Plunkett made a brief statement on Noor’s behalf asking for a sentence at the lower end of the sentencing range of 41-57 months. Noor himself made the briefest of statements, thanking Damond for extending his forgiveness to him in his remarks.
Judge Quaintance had it within her discretion to impose a sentence anywhere between 41-57 months. Fifty-seven months was the maximum sentence that Judge Quaintance had it within her discretion to impose and that is the sentence she imposed after a brief statement reiterating her comments supporting the 12-and-a-half year sentence she had originally imposed. It was over in less than an hour.
I am writing at the coffee shop immediately across the skyway from the courthouse. The courthouse was open at 6:00 a.m. this morning without the martial protection and restricted access — i.e., closure to the public — that obtained during the Chauvin trial. Reporters hung around in the lobby hoping to catch the attorneys when the hearing was adjourned, but the attorneys dodged them. I snapped the photo of the reporters milling around after the hearing as I left the courthouse a few minutes ago.
My law school classmate Peter Wold also represented Noor and attended the hearing this morning. I just ran into Peter in the coffee shop. After explaining how he escaped the reporters, he told me: “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.” I don’t think that was an instruction to me, but rather an explanation of his reluctance to talk to the press.