Last week there was a conviction in a Hennepin County court room. Former Minneapolis police officer Mohammed Noor was convicted of murder and manslaughter after shooting an unarmed citizen two years ago.
I have been following this case fairly closely through the good offices of the Powerline blog. For those who don’t read the blog, you are missing out on some of the best work in the blogosphere.
Leading up to the verdict, I heard a lot of rumbling in social media about the case. After the verdict I was contacted by someone who wanted my opinion as a former officer about what had happened.
Let me set the stage for you before I get to the meat of this post. I hate to see anyone killed in error by an officer of the law. It’s a tragedy for everyone involved. It lessens the public’s faith in their servants, it causes trauma for the officers involved, and it destroys the life of an innocent.
I would also point out that someone dying at the hands of law enforcement is very rare. Far more people are killed by family, gangs in their midst, and auto crashes than die at the hands of police. Further, most police killings are justified. Not all of the people who die have a weapon in their hand at the moment, but speaking as a big lug, I don’t particularly need a weapon to be a deadly threat – same goes for cops.
Finally, there are just straight up accidents where police kill someone when attempting to employ a less-than-lethal level of force. These are very rare, and include people who die in police custody in transport accidents, or a medical emergency that is not discovered until too late.
Having set the stage, let me tell you what I think. After talking to more than one law-enforcement officer who knew Noor’s background in training, I am not surprised that he was unprepared for the streets. I was informed by these sources that he was a “special project” who was ushered through training so that he would be the first Somali officer in Minneapolis. It was a political decision, and according to sources a bad one.
Secondly, the “Blue wall of silence” we always hear about was extremely quiet. More than anything, they just didn’t say a word about anything, versus mounting a defense of Noor in the time since the death of Justine Damond. I took that as the silence of people waiting to see if justice was served, and afraid of the implications if he either got railroaded, or got a pass.
Lastly, I was afraid of the possibility of Noor not getting a fair shake given the anti-police mentality in Minneapolis’ higher government echelons.
Now, for a detour before how I think it went. Here are the list of acceptable/predicted outcomes according to the legal scholars I’ve observed on social media:
Noor will get a pass because he’s a member of a fascist force that keeps the people down.
No cop will ever be convicted, the whole system is designed to suppress the people.
He’s black, and the man will railroad him.
Only on trial because he shot a white woman. It’s Emmet Till all over again.
Noor can’t be convicted, he was on duty and all cops make mistakes – you cannot imprison a man who was trying to do the correct thing.
She deserved to be shot, she snuck up on the squad car and frightened the cops.
I’ll spare you the more racially ridiculous ones, on both sides. Let’s just say his skin color trumped his uniform color for an awful lot of people with strong opinions. Some more than willing to leave their usual position on law enforcement based on ancestry.
My conclusion: it sounded like the best outcome Noor could hope for in the case. I don’t believe that there was criminal intent to go out and kill someone that summer night. I do believe that he probably recklessly fired that weapon and killed an innocent woman, which is the very definition of manslaughter.
The news reports I read (multiple sources) made it clear that the prosecution presented an excellent (but not perfect) case against Noor. His defense, and testimony, was weak at best, and rang false. Jurors interviewed after the verdict made it clear that the expert witness testimony held a lot of sway. The biggest part of that last point is that you need to bring your best guns to the courtroom, not an “expert” who will testify to anything based on the needs of the client. You can’t take the facts that say “X” and make them say “Y” because that’s what your team needs in this circumstance.
Noor will likely be placed in a facility where he is isolated from the general population. He will be a convicted felon, with all the baggage that brings with it, for the rest of his life. He is doomed to have a miserable life unless he lifts himself above the mess he’s in, and aspires to improve his life after his release.
Was it the right verdict? I think so. But I’d much rather have a chance to meet Justine Damond, and hope that Noor get the experience and training he needed to become a good cop. Neither will ever happen, and that’s unfortunate for all involved.
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