Paper challenges sealing of juror names

Published 7:42 pm Thursday, February 13, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis Star Tribune is challenging a judge’s decision to keep sealed the names of jurors who convicted a former police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed woman.

Mohamed Noor was convicted of murder last April in the July 2017 shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond just minutes after she called 911 to report that she thought she heard a possible sexual assault happening in the alley behind her Minneapolis home. Noor argued at trial that he fired a single shot when Damond approached his squad car because he feared for his partner’s life.

Hennepin County Judge Kathryn Quaintance has cited media interest in the case to repeatedly keep the jurors’ information sealed, most recently in January.

In a motion filed Tuesday, the Star Tribune argues that there’s no threat to juror safety nor to Noor’s ability to get a fair trial. The newspaper also says the secrecy violates First Amendment rights, and that Quaintance’s citation of media interest as a reason to seal the names makes no sense.

“(T)he Court seems to be saying, juror names should be released only in cases that people do not care about — or only after people stop caring about them,” the motion states. “By this logic, the names of jurors in high-profile cases such (as) this one might never be released.”

Noor was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison in Damond’s death.