No plea deal offered for Mohamed Noor in Justine Damond case

The former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing Justine Damond, also known as Justine Ruszczyk, in the alley of her south Minneapolis home last summer did not enter a plea in his short court hearing Tuesday morning. 

Prosecutors said there have been no talks of plea deals or offers. Both sides will discuss trial scheduling with the judge in the coming days. 

Recent court filings show Noor intends to plead not guilty to the charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department when the charges were filed. 

Last July, Noor and his partner were driving in an alley in south Minneapolis responding to Damond’s 911 call. She had called to report noises that sounded to her like a possible sexual assault nearby. When she approached the driver’s side window of the squad car, Noor fired through the open window. She died minutes later. 

In filing charges, Hennepin County Mike Freeman said Noor had no time to perceive or process a real threat and to him, that made a self-defense argument unreasonable. 

Marsh Halberg, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor not directly connected to Noor’s case, said he is not surprised there was no plea deal or offer in the case. 

“I don’t expect any plea offer in this case,” Halberg said. “This is such a public case. There will be backseat driving in this case and opinion making. No matter what, there will be criticism. So the easiest way—let’s present to a jury. Let them decide what happened.”

For his part, Noor’s defense attorney, Tom Plunkett, did speak to the judge about reserving his right to argue probable cause at a later date. 

Halberg explained that would mean asking the judge to consider whether there is enough evidence to warrant the charges of murder and manslaughter in the fatal shooting. 

Prior court records have shown Noor intends to argue self-defense and that he used “reasonable force” when Damond approached the driver-side of the squad car, where he was sitting in the passenger seat. 

“It’s really going to boil down to about a 10-second window of time where you look at all the factors, what was in that guy’s head? And was it reasonable to believe that was danger outside his window to shoot?” Halberg said.