MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge on Friday rejected requests to use a former Minneapolis police officer's silence and a pre-hiring psychological exam against him at his trial in the 2017 shooting of an unarmed Australian woman.
Mohamed Noor, 33, goes on trial April 1 on murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old life coach and Australian-American who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. Noor, who shot Damond when she approached his cruiser, was fired from the police force after being charged.
Noor refused to talk to investigators when he was offered a chance to do a voluntary interview, and prosecutors wanted to tell the jury that. They argued the situation would have been different if Noor was arrested and had chosen then to invoke his right against self-incrimination.
But Hennepin County Judge Kathryn Quaintance disagreed, saying: "It seems to me the right not to incriminate oneself is a pretty seminal constitutional right."
Quaintance ruled that prosecutors could not use Noor's silence as part of their "case in chief," but said it may be used to attack his testimony if he takes the stand.
Quaintance also rejected prosecutors' bid to use a 2015 psychological test of Noor before his hiring as a Minneapolis officer.
The test found that Noor was disinterested in interacting with others and, when compared with other officers, was more likely to be impatient or have difficulty confronting people. A psychiatrist concluded that overall, Noor was fit to be a police officer, saying the test results don't carry much weight.
Prosecutors say the test results are admissible as character evidence, and they matter because the jury has to decide whether Noor acted as a reasonable police officer would act.
The defense says prosecutors don't want to admit the overall psychological evaluation, which found Noor fit for duty, but instead are pointing to a test that is "unsupported speculation."
As with Noor's silence, Quaintance said prosecutors can't make the exam a central part of their case but may be able to bring it up if Noor testifies.
Noor also entered a not-guilty plea Friday to the second-degree intentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.
Noor's partner the night of the shooting, Matthew Harrity, told investigators he was startled by a loud noise right before Damond approached the driver's-side window of their police SUV.
According to the criminal complaint, Harrity, who was driving, heard a voice and a thump and caught a glimpse of a person's head and shoulders outside his window. He then heard a sound like a lightbulb breaking, saw a flash and looked to his right to see Noor in the passenger seat with his arm extended. He looked out his window and saw Damond with a gunshot wound.