Attorneys for former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor filed court documents Thursday requesting leniency when he is resentenced next week for fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Defense attorneys Thomas Plunkett and Peter Wold revealed several new details of Noor's life behind bars in their appeal for a prison term of about 3 ⅓ years, much of which already has been served.
"Mr. Noor has shown to be a model prisoner," they wrote. "He has spent his time giving back to the community he has found himself in, to the extent he is able to, given the pandemic restrictions. Mr. Noor has demonstrated that he is ready to return to 'normal' society and will continue assisting those in need around him. Continuing to keep Mr. Noor imprisoned would be unnecessary if the goal of this Court is reformative justice."
Noor worked as a janitor in prison before becoming a clerk who helps admit new arrivals, his attorneys wrote. He also has attended or led religious services while incarcerated.
Noor, 35, will be resentenced Oct. 21 after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in September to overturn his murder conviction and send his case back to the court.
Jurors found Noor guilty in 2019 of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for shooting Damond while responding to her 911 call about a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her south Minneapolis home. Noor was sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison on the murder count and entered prison on May 2, 2019.
His attorneys appealed the murder count, which was upheld in February by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. They then asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to review that decision.
The high court agreed with the defense that because of how the statute is written, the count cannot apply when a defendant's actions are targeted at a specific person.
Noor will be resentenced on the lower manslaughter count, which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years. State sentencing guidelines recommend four years for defendants with no criminal history, such as Noor.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's office previously said it would seek the maximum term.
Plunkett and Wold are requesting the lower end of the sentencing guidelines range, citing "unexpected and particularly harsh conditions of [Noor's] incarceration as well as his post-sentencing conduct."
They included 19 "positive behavior" reports from prison staff and a two-page letter from Noor's case manager with their sentencing memorandum. The letters included some redaction that hid the facility's and staffers' names.
After sentencing, Noor initially was held in administrative segregation from the general population at Oak Park Heights prison, the state's highest security prison. On July 11, 2019, he was transferred to a facility in North Dakota for his own safety.
Noor is now being held in administrative segregation at Oak Park Heights for his sentencing.
"Persons in administrative segregation are not allowed visitation with family or friends from the outside world," Noor's attorneys wrote.
"Mr. Noor spends 23 hours per day alone in a 6 X 9 foot concrete room. The room contains a narrow concrete slab with a thin plastic mattress and an open toilet."
The Minnesota Department of Corrections said Noor typically would have access to visitors, but that Oak Park Heights and several other Department of Corrections facilities are temporarily prohibiting outside visitors because they had two COVID-19 infections within a 14-day period.
According to the defense filings: Noor is allowed an hour of recreation time outside his cell three to four days a week due to "extreme staffing shortages" in Minnesota prisons. The concrete recreation room is 13 feet by 17 feet and has a phone and pullup bar.
Noor makes a 10- to 20-minute phone call and "walks in a circle for the rest of his recreational time."
"Many days he has no human contact beyond the scrape of a food tray making its way into his cell," his attorneys wrote.
Noor's conduct in the North Dakota facility supports a lower prison term, the defense argued.
"He has adapted to our system very well — he has no concerns about his safety and interacted exceptionally well with staff and other residents," wrote Noor's case manager, whose name was redacted. "… He assists our staff with necessary paperwork for admitting new arrivals, prepares the items that are issued to every new arrival and assists other permanent workers as needed or when asked without hesitation."
Noor has no health, education or treatment issues in prison and no disciplinary incidents, the case manager wrote.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708