See more of the story

A Hennepin County judge has approved a defense request to subpoena an independent use-of-force expert consulted in the murder case against a Minnesota state trooper, but she denied a flurry of other evidentiary motions the defense raised.

Judge Tamara Garcia ruled that Trooper Ryan Londregan's attorneys made a "plausible argument" that reports, meetings notes and other draft documents produced by the expert, Jeffrey Noble, are relevant to the defense's case and that he should be allowed to testify.

For weeks, both parties have argued over what, if any, information the defense is entitled to from Noble, a retired deputy police chief from Irvine, Calif., retained by Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty during the charging review process.

Noble's preliminary opinions sparked controversy after court records revealed that he had expressed the preliminary opinion to prosecutors that Londregan acted reasonably to protect his partner when he shot and killed motorist Ricky Cobb II during a traffic stop last summer.

"The danger was not hypothetical," Noble observed, according to a two-page summary of the virtual meeting between Noble and Moriarty's staff on Oct. 13, 2023. However, Noble asked for more time to review the case and "refrained from offering an ultimate opinion" on whether lethal force was justified, the memo states.

Moriarty did not wait on his final report. She charged Londregan, 27, with second-degree murder, manslaughter and assault, two days before dismissing Noble from further work on the case.

Ricky Cobb II was killed by a state trooper during a traffic stop on Interstate 94 in north Minneapolis on July 31.
Ricky Cobb II was killed by a state trooper during a traffic stop on Interstate 94 in north Minneapolis on July 31.

Provided, Star Tribune

Since then, the defense has sought to verify Noble's statements by requesting that he hand over any records, notes or communications on Londregan since his first contact with Moriarty's office. Prosecutors quickly moved to quash the subpoena last month, arguing that it was "extremely overbroad and burdensome."

In her 17-page order, Garcia noted that Noble has not objected to the subpoena, nor has the state provided any information about the burden to him.

"Londregan has also made the plausible argument that the documents are relevant to his defense, even if the materials are not dispositive to the case," Garcia wrote in her April 3 ruling. She went on to say that compliance of the subpoena "is not unreasonable under the totality of the circumstances."

Garcia denied five defense motions seeking to compel various categories of discovery materials from Moriarty's office regarding Noble, including all text and email communications between him and members of her staff.

Such administrative correspondence is protected as "work product" under the law, Garcia ruled, and therefore not required to be disclosed by the state. She did, however, order that prosecutors turn over all external communications with the media — such as public news releases — as well as a list of every individual interviewed in connection with the case.

Londregan's attorneys hoped to depose Noble ahead of the upcoming hearing on April 29. But Garcia denied that request, citing court rules saying that a deposition may only be ordered when there is "reasonable probability that the witness will be unavailable to testify at trial."

"[The defense] has not shown that Noble is unavailable to testify at either a hearing or trial," she wrote, according to the recently filed order. "Indeed, all input from the parties indicates that Noble is alive, in good health, and perfectly willing to fly to Minnesota if subpoenaed or retained as an expert witness.... The fact that Noble lives in California does not make him unavailable."

Noble has provided expert testimony in previous police killing cases in Minnesota, including those of George Floyd and Philando Castile. He was most recently consulted last year in a St. Paul police deadly use-of-force case, where he concluded that the officers were in "imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury" when they shot and killed 65-year-old Yia Xiong as he wielded a knife.

That analysis helped inform state Attorney General Keith Ellison and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi's decision last month to rule the shooting justified and not charge St. Paul police officer Abdirahman Dahir.