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Judge allows copies of Noor trial evidence

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Inside the courtroom at Mohamed Noor's trial on Monday, April 2, 2019.
This sketch shows inside the courtroom for ex-Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor's trial on April 2, 2019.
Nancy Muellner for MPR News file

A Hennepin County judge on Wednesday ruled that all evidence from the trial of former Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor, except five graphic videos, should be released to the public this week.

The five videos were recorded by officer body cameras, including one worn by Noor, who last month became the first police officer in Minnesota to be found guilty of killing someone while on duty. The graphic footage depicts the victim, Justine Ruszczyk, receiving emergency medical treatment in her final moments of life.

In her order, Judge Kathryn Quaintance ruled that those five exhibits would be edited to blur Ruszczyk's face and exposed body, as well as mute some noises she made.

Noor was convicted last month of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Ruszczyk in July 2017. Ruszczyk had called 911 to report what she thought was an assault in the alley behind her home. Noor shot and killed Ruszczyk after she approached the squad he was in.

Hennepin County Judge Kathryn Quaintance
Hennepin County Judge Kathryn Quaintance.
Hennepin County Courts

The judge's ruling comes after a coalition of journalism organizations, including MPR News and the Star Tribune, asked the court to be permitted to copy trial exhibits in the case. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office opposed allowing the exhibits to be copied, citing concerns about Noor's appeal and the "misuse" of graphic evidence.  

Quaintance said in her ruling that there's a legal presumption in favor of copying exhibits from a criminal trial. She dismissed the prosecution's concern that copying evidence could affect Noor's appeals.

"Any post-trial motions or appellate issues will be decided by judges who will have access to the original exhibits," Quaintance wrote. "The possibility of a new trial on remand remains hypothetical."

But Quaintance did find that some of the body camera videos could be exploited "for improper purposes should it be released." She wrote that Ruszczyk's exposed body, distressed face and sounds of her gasping for breath, moaning and vomiting have limited value for reporting purposes. She ordered the prosecution to submit redacted versions of those five videos.

Noor's sentencing is set for June 7 in Hennepin County District Court.