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Testimony in murder trial of ex-Minneapolis officer nears completion

Chao Xiong and Libor Jany, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS -- Testimony in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor is nearing completion in its fourth week as prosecutors prepare to call expert witnesses to the stand Wednesday, capping off more than 50 people who have testified in court.

Attorneys on Tuesday began finalizing instructions that will be given to jurors before they deliberate, signaling the end of a trial that grabbed international headlines and focused heavily on alleged missteps by Minneapolis police and state investigators. Defense attorneys have three experts on their witness list that could testify after prosecutors rest their case; it remains unknown whether Noor will testify about why he fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017.

The prosecution aggressively questioned the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Tuesday about its inquiry into Damond's killing and role in perpetuating the theory that she slapped Noor's squad moments before he fatally shot her. Prosecutors' case on authorities' shortcomings had previously been directed at Minneapolis police.

BCA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Chris Olson testified Monday that Minneapolis Sgt. Shannon Barnette introduced the word "slap" into the investigation. His testimony resumed Tuesday, during which he admitted that he instead could have been the source.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy asked Olson if, in a meeting with prosecutors earlier this year, he told them that Barnette had said that Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, were "startled" at the scene.

Reading aloud from a transcript of that meeting, Sweasy asked Olson if he admitted to asking Barnette, "Could it be like a slap?"

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"Yes, that's possible," Olson said.

The prosecution has asserted that the slap was invented by Barnette and Olson, and perpetuated by the BCA, which investigates officer-involved shootings, in two search warrants and a news release to the media.

A forensic scientist testified Monday that Damond's fingerprints did not match 51 prints lifted from the squad.

Sweasy also targeted Olson's treatment of a neighborhood woman who came by the shooting scene the morning after and told him that she thought Damond could be the subject of three 911 calls she made the previous night.

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