Because there have been few prosecutions of police officers using deadly force, “we had a lot of learning to do as prosecutors,” Sweasy said. “There is almost no criminal case law on this in the country. There is civil case law, but it’s not a perfect translation to the criminal realm, for a lot of reasons.”
As a result, the prosecutors relied heavily on expert witnesses hired to review the case and “teach us,” Sweasy said.
The prosecutors’ biggest challenge was facing long odds against convicting a police officer. “Prosecutors have not been very successful in homicide prosecution against police officers, although I think that is changing since the Noor verdict.”
Another “quality of the investigation” issue was some difficulty in obtaining relevant information from Minneapolis police officers, “which led us to call the grand jury,” Sweasy said. Another challenge for the prosecutors was the intense media scrutiny the case attracted. “I had never worked under those kinds of conditions before.” Summing it up, “anything a prosecutor can think of that would make prosecution more difficult was present here.”
But the prosecutors prevailed in the end, and Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2019 here.
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