Prosecutors seek to block Noor trial evidence

Mohamed Noor before the verdict is read in his trial
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor enters the Hennepin County Government Center before the verdict is read in his trial on April 30, 2019.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Prosecutors are asking the judge in the case of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor to block the release of evidence presented publicly at his trial last month.

A jury found Noor guilty at the end of April of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk in 2017 after she'd called 911.

Following the trial, MPR News and other media outlets requested copies of interviews, photos and video presented as evidence. But the Hennepin County Attorney's Office filed a motion Friday asking Judge Kathryn Quaintance not to release evidence to the public.

Prosecutors said in the filing that the judge contacted them on May 7 to offer them the opportunity to take a position on releasing the evidence. Prosecutors argued in the filing that Noor's case isn't over because he won't be sentenced until next month. They also argue that releasing evidence could interfere with Noor's appeal of his convictions.

In the motion signed by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, prosecutors argue that evidence that's released to the public could be "misused," including videos from officers' body cameras.

"The videos could be used for any number of purposes, some of which could be exploitative at best," according to the prosecution's filing.

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Advocates for open government say the press and public have a legal right to examine the evidence following a public trial.

Don Gemberling of the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, which advocates for government transparency, said the move by Hennepin County and the judge to block the release of evidence publicly presented at a trial is "unprecedented."

Gemberling said it appears to have more to do with allegations that the Hennepin County Attorney's Office and state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension mishandled the case than protecting Ruszczyk's privacy or ensuring that Noor has a fair trial.

MPR News and other media organizations are asking the judge to allow them to weigh in on her decision about whether to release evidence to the public. Noor's defense attorneys have not yet filed any motions on the issue.

Quaintance made headlines during the trial when she tried to block the public and journalists from viewing some video and photographic evidence, citing Ruszczyk's privacy and the graphic nature of the videos. The judge backed down on that ruling after a coalition of journalism organizations challenged her decision.