Killer cop awaits verdict in Justine case
THE jury has retired in the trial of killer cop Mohamed Noor in Minneapolis for shooting unarmed Australian woman Justine Ruszczyk Damond in July 2017.
Noor has been on trial for the past four weeks in Hennepin County Court. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges.
The 12 person jury has been sequestered and will need to reach a unanimous verdict.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance concluded the trial by expressing her sympathies to the families of Noor and Ms Damond, who have sat shoulder to shoulder in the front row of the public gallery in a cramped courtroom throughout the trial.
"I would like to acknowledge the pain and the stress of the two families involved in this case," Judge Quaintance said.
"Both the families of Mr Noor and the family of (Ms) Ruszczyk Damond have sat through this trial, which has been heartbreaking for both, I'm sure."
Judge Quaintance said she thanked them for their "dignity and grace" through "some very, very horrific evidence," which had included repeated screenings of Ms Damond's last moments in the body-worn camera footage played to the court.
"This process must have been just excruciating in many ways," she said.
Earlier, prosecutor Amy Sweasy described Ms Damond's death after she called 911 to help a woman she could hear screaming behind her home, as "tragedy compressed on top of tragedy."
"So many lives have been affected by this case," she said, but none more so than Ms Damond, 40, who had been engaged to marry within a month.
"She is gone because she was tragically, violently gunned down by the police officer that she called to help for a stranger.
"She was looking for help for someone else and the defendant shot and killed her.
"All she did was walk up to that squad car to speak to those police officers that she had called."
Noor's defence argued that he and his partner feared they were being ambushed by Ms Damond, who was barefoot and in pyjamas. They said that when she raised her arm as she approached their car, they believed she was possibly armed.
Ms Sweasy said the former Sydney vet and lifecoacth was only carrying her sparkly gold covered mobile phone: "the phone that she had used to call the police".
Noor's defence lawyer Thomas Plunkett said his client was following his training, and that he was devastated that he had killed an innocent woman and lost his job as a police officer.
Describing Somali-born Noor, a 33 year old father of one, as "a kid that came here from a far away place, grateful to the community for his family's opportunities", he said Noor "didn't wake up in the morning and say 'I want to kill someone.'"
"Mr Noor acted to stop a threat," Mr Plunkett said.
"He was doing his job in the most careful way that he could. He's a police officer in a big city, this is how it has to be," he said.
But Ms Sweasy said Noor was guilty of deliberately shooting to kill when he fired at Ms Damond and dismissed the shock he testified about feeling when he saw Ms Damond approaching their squad car.
"When they go down an alley because they hear a woman is screaming, they should expect to encounter a woman," Ms Sweasy, adding "they took their sweet time to get there", arriving nine minutes after Ms Damond's first call.
Earlier, Ms Damond's family, including her American fiance Don Damond her Australian father John Ruszczyk, stepmother Maryan Heffernan, brother Jason and sister-in-law Katarina, reacted with visible shock in court as Noor's defence sought to blame her for hitting their car. They shook their heads and sighed, talking to each other in the gallery.
Mr Plunkett said Ms Damond had run fast towards their pair's squad car, alluding to how physically fit she was given she did yoga and kickboxing.
The prosecution denies Ms Damond struck the car with her hand, which is central to Noor's ambush defence.
Ms Sweasy dismissed the that Ms Damond was "some kind of adrenaline crazed super speed person".
"I don't even know what that is about," she said.
"It's just one more attempt to put the focus on her and what she did wrong."
She also slammed defence claims that the prosecution case was that Noor fired accidentally.
"We don't think the defendant misfired," she said.
"We don't think he had an accident. He knew exactly what he was doing. He pulled his gun out … he aimed and he killed her.
"This was intentional murder."