Via Star Tribune:
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is convening a grand jury to gather evidence in the 2017 shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, but said he still will decide whether Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor will face charges in her death.
About 35 to 40 Minneapolis police officers have been subpoenaed to testify, according to Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents the department’s rank-and-file officers. Among them was Matthew Harrity, Noor’s partner the night Damond was killed, and the only living witness aside from Noor. His attorney, Fred Bruno, said Harrity was served Wednesday.
“It came as a surprise,” Bruno said. He declined to say when Harrity will testify.
Freeman’s decision comes after a pledge he made in 2016 to no longer use grand juries in officer-involved shootings. Hennepin County attorney’s office spokesman Chuck Laszewski maintained that Freeman “will continue the office’s two-year-old policy where he makes the decision on whether or not to bring charges in officer-involved shootings.” “Because grand jury proceedings are secret, we cannot comment on grand jury subpoenas or any testimony that occurs before a grand jury,” Laszewski said.
Minnesota law gives grand juries the power to issue indictments and require people to testify by issuing subpoenas, though witnesses can invoke their 5th Amendment right not to testify to avoid self-incrimination. Kroll said union members will cooperate in the grand jury process.[…]
Freeman’s decision to use a grand jury is the latest turn in a case that has gained international attention since July 15, when Noor shot and killed Damond, 40, an Australia native, after she reported a possible assault behind her south Minneapolis home.
Freeman had said that he would make a charging decision before the end of 2017. But in December, he was caught on video blasting Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators for not bringing him enough evidence to charge Noor.
“I’ve got to have the evidence, and I don’t have it yet,” Freeman said in the video. “Let me just say it’s not my fault. So if it isn’t my fault, who didn’t do their job? Investigators. They don’t work for me. They haven’t done their job.”
Toward the end of December Freeman announced that he would not make a charging decision in the case until 2018, but had since remained silent on the case until his statement Wednesday.
Freeman said nearly two years ago that he would stop using grand juries in police shooting cases. The announcement first came in March 2016 when he was deciding whether to charge two officers in the officer-involved shooting death of Jamar Clark in north Minneapolis the previous November.
In December 2016, Freeman said one of the biggest regrets of his career was using grand juries to investigate police-involved shootings.