MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Jury selection starts Monday in a police shooting case that drew outrage from around the world.
A top criminal defense attorney told WCCO-TV that this case could go either way.
A memorial marks the alley in south Minneapolis where Ruszczyk Damond was shot and killed by Noor.
“Justine didn’t have to die,” said then-Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau in July 2017.
Defense attorney Earl Gray defended the last officer charged with killing someone in Minnesota. A jury cleared his client Jeronimo Yanez in the Philando Castile case. Gray believes Noor’s trial will come down to who the jurors are, and how they view the actions of the victim and defendant.
“In my mind it’s a 50-50 case. Both sides have problems,” Gray said.
Ruszczyk Damond called 911 that July night in 2017 to report a possible sexual assault in her neighborhood. According to the criminal complaint, after hearing a thump on the squad car, Noor shot across his partner, striking Ruszczyk Damond once, killing the Australian yoga teacher.
“You have a dead lady in the alley that didn’t have a gun in her nightgown. That’s a real problem. And you have a police officer reaching across and shooting that individual without shying away from it,” Gray said. “Their other problem is they’re representing an African American.”
On the other side, Gray believes Noor will take the stand. So far, he hasn’t given a statement.
“The jury is going to have to believe that this fellow had no intent, and was not negligent, and thought he was doing his job and is extremely sorry about what happened,” Gray said.
A 2017 dashcam and squad car video captured Noor drawing his gun during a traffic stop two months prior to shooting Ruszczyk Damond. According to prosecutors, the video shows he walked up to the driver’s window with a gun in his right hand. As Noor spoke with the driver, the “muzzle of this gun was pointed at the man’s head and upper chest.” Noor’s attorney’s fought to keep the video out of court and won.
On the questionnaire jurors will fill out, Gray said the defense team should pay specific attention to answers about weapons. He would look for someone who’s served in the military, has been around guns, and a juror that understands reasonable use of force.