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Trial begins for ex-US cop who fatally shot Australian woman

Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of a former Minnesota police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman in 2017, provoking outrage in the United States and in the victim's home country. Police say Mohamed Noor shot Justine Damond in Minneapolis in July 2017 while in the passenger seat of his police…

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – APRIL 01: Former Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor leaves the Hennepin County Government Center during a break from his trial on April 1, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Noor is charged with second-degree intentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in July 2017. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images/AFP

Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of a former Minnesota police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Australian woman in 2017, provoking outrage in the United States and in the victim’s home country.

Police say Mohamed Noor shot Justine Damond in Minneapolis in July 2017 while in the passenger seat of his police car.

She had approached the cruiser after calling police to report a possible rape in the dark alley behind her home.

Damond was shot once in the abdomen and died at the scene.

Noor was fired from the police force and charged with second-degree and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter.

He has pleaded not guilty.

The murder charges carry sentences of up to 25 years for the second-degree charge and up to 10 years for the third-degree.

The prosecution has claimed Noor acted unreasonably — shooting at someone he did not clearly see, while his partner was in the line of fire.

Noor’s attorneys have indicated they plan to mount a self-defense argument.

Attorney Tom Plunkett has said his client “acted as he has been trained and consistent with established departmental policy.”

Noor’s work history barred
Dozens of prospective jurors were given initial instructions Monday and handed questionnaires. Court proceedings ended by late morning and were scheduled to resume Wednesday.

The presiding judge, Kathryn Quaintance, has barred prosecutors from presenting evidence of Noor’s past work history.

That history includes an incident in which Noor allegedly pointed a gun at a motorist during a traffic stop, and occasionally refused to respond to police calls, according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that Noor was deemed “asocial and socially introverted” in his pre-employment psychological test, but that there were no signs of disqualifying mental illness.

Damond’s killing caused international outrage.

The 40-year-old Australian had moved to the United States to marry her American fiance, Don Damond, whose name she had already legally adopted, changing from her maiden name Ruszczyk.

Her Australian relatives and the country’s government demanded an explanation, while protests in Minneapolis led to the resignation of the city’s police chief.

Across the country, prosecutors have had difficulty securing convictions against officers accused of wrongful shootings that often include racial overtones.

Trials have mostly resulted in hung juries or acquittals, which at times have caused civil unrest in American cities.

Another Minnesota officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was fired from his job but acquitted after fatally shooting black motorist Philando Castile in 2016.

There were several days of protests in Saint Louis, Missouri in 2017, after a judge concluded there was not enough evidence to convict former officer Jason Stockley for shooting Anthony Lamar Smith after a 2011 car chase.

In Chicago, Jason Van Dyke was convicted of murder for killing black teen Laquan McDonald. The 17-year-old was shot 16 times, with most of those bullets striking him after he fell to the ground.