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Jury selection begins in Seward triple homicide trial of Mahdi Hassan Ali

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Mahdi Hassan Ali
This undated image provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff shows Mahdi Hassan Ali, who along with another teenager was charged with three counts of murder in the Jan. 6 killings at Seward Market and Halal Meat. The teens were charged as adults. They are not related.
AP Photo/Hennepin County Sheriff

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the trial of a teenager accused of killing three men at a Minneapolis convenience store last year.

Mahdi Hassan Ali is charged with three counts of first degree murder. According to the complaint, Ali shot and killed three men at the Seward Market during an attempted robbery on Jan. 6, 2010. The state's case will include testimony by Ahmed Abdi Ali, no relation, who says he was Ali's accomplice and says Ali is the killer.

In April of 2010, Ahmed Abdi Ali pleaded guilty to attempted 1st degree robbery and could serve as many as 18 years in prison. In the plea agreement, Ahmed Abdi Ali admits that he and co-defendent Mahdi Ali went to the Seward Market with the intent to rob the store.

However, defense attorney Fred Goetz will argue that a third man was involved in the attempted robbery. Goetz recently filed a court document that states that the other man has admitted he was present at the store and participated in the robbery.

Both Goetz and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman declined to discuss their cases before trial. But documents filed by Goetz earlier this year show that Goetz is trying to link the gun used in the robbery to the older brother of Ahmed Abdi Ali, the accomplice who's turned state's witness. The gun was one of more than a dozen firearms stolen from a St. Louis Park gun store several weeks before the Seward Market shooting. Ahmed Abdi Ali's older brother was found with one of the other stolen guns several months later.

Goetz wrote in his memorandum to the judge, "Defendant now seeks an order or (sic) the Court requiring the prosecution to disclose law enforcement reports about the gun store burglary and the co-defendant's brother's possession of stolen firearms as they may well establish a link between the brother and the murder weapon and thereby provide the defendant with important evidence to impeach the co-defendant at trial." MPR News could not reach a spokesman for reaction from the shooting victims' families. The three men who died in the robbery are store clerk Osman Jama Elmi, 28; his cousin Mohamed Abdi Warfa, 30; and customer Anwar Salah Mohammed, 31, who was shot as he entered the store.

Ali's trial has been delayed several months. Goetz has tried to get the murder trial transferred to juvenile court. He says Ali, a Somali immigrant with no birth certificate, was 15 at the time of the shooting and too young to be tried as an adult. However, at the time he was arrested, Ali was carrying a drivers license saying he was 17.

In Minnesota, a person 16 and older can be tried as an adult without undergoing a juvenile certification process.

Goetz says he expects the trial to last three weeks.