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Noor's silence, psych exam excluded from trial in Ruszczyk killing

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Mohamed Noor leaves the Hennepin County Government Center.
Mohamed Noor leaves the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis Friday after a pretrial hearing.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated 3:35 p.m. | Posted 10:03 a.m.

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor's initial psychological test for the force and his decision not to cooperate with investigators will not be allowed as evidence against him at trial in the shooting death of 911 caller Justine Ruszczyk.

Noor pleaded not guilty Friday at a pretrial hearing where Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance made several decisions on evidence she would allow and disallow when the trial starts April 1.

Quaintance said she might reconsider her decisions on the psychological exam and Noor's silence should Noor testify during the trial.

She also decided not to admit evidence of previous "bad acts" on Noor's part, including when he pulled a gun on a motorist.

However, she said she would allow the 911 call he responded to in Ruszczyk's neighborhood two hours before the shooting, and she denied Noor's request to separate the second- and third-degree murder charges against him, saying that evidence and witnesses all overlap.

Noor is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for shooting and killing Ruszczyk, also known as Justine Damond, in July 2017 after she called 911 because she thought she heard a woman being assaulted in the alley behind her home.

Noor's defense wanted the jury to be able to watch an implicit bias video out of the federal courts in Washington. Noor is Somali-American. Attorney Peter Wold said he knew of another case in Minnesota where a Somali person was involved, where the video was played to jurors. 

Wold also mentioned statements by President Trump regarding Muslims and whether they should be allowed in the country. "We can't pretend unconscious bias isn't among us all," he told the judge.

Prosecutor Patrick Lofton countered that the video, which starts out with images of segregation and Japanese internment camps, has never been used here and cites research and studies they wouldn't be able to discuss with jurors. 

Quaintance said she doesn't want a jury to see a video that's not evidence. She declined to allow it as evidence and said issues of implicit bias could be addressed elsewhere in the trial process.

Friday's roughly 35-minute pretrial hearing, the last major step before Noor's trial, generally went as expected.

Security was high at the courthouse for the case, which has an international audience, including media from Ruszczyk's native Australia. 

Authorities set up a metal detector on the 19th floor outside the courtroom and required everyone entering the court to leave electronic devices behind, including a reporter's Fitbit.

Noor said nothing during the hearing. He had some family members in the first row. His attorneys declined comment as they left the building through the skyway.