Justine Damond's Family Endure Graphic Evidence In Shooting Trial
Justine Damond's family endured a difficult day in the US courtroom as they decided to stay for graphic autopsy and crime scene photos.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance looked toward the packed public gallery in her Minneapolis courtroom and issued a warning.
Autopsy photos of Justine Damond-Ruszczyk, the Australian life coach shot dead by Minneapolis police officer Mohammed Noor in 2017, would be shown to the jury on large screens and the judge wanted to offer an opportunity for anyone to leave.
Ms Damond's father, John Ruszczyk, and stepmother Maryan Heffernan, have been stoic during the first two days of evidence.
They decided to stay.
What they saw was a parent's worst nightmare.
A day earlier Ms Damond's American fiance, Don Damond, told the jury just how full of life his Australian sweetheart was but on Wednesday photo after photo showed the lifeless 40-year-old former Sydneysider with a single bullet wound on the left side of her stomach.
Ms Damond was wearing a pink t-shirt with the words "Koala Australia" and a drawing of a koala mum with a baby koala on her back.
"I think we would be talking seconds," Dr Lorren Jackson, the assistant Hennepin County medical examiner who performed the autopsy, estimated how long it would have taken for Ms Damond to die.
He told how Noor's bullet severed Ms Damond's Iliac artery and resulted in major internal bleeding.
Noor, 33, has been charged with Ms Damond's second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter for the July 15, 2017, shooting at the entrance of an alley near her Minneapolis home.
He entered not guilty pleas.
Noor's lawyer, Peter Wold, told the court the Somali-born officer and his police partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, were "spooked" when Ms Damond suddenly appeared out of the darkness and slapped their stationary police vehicle.
Noor feared they may have been ambushed and he shot in self-defence, Wold said.
Noor was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car and the shot passed his partner's head and out the window, hitting Ms Damond who was barefoot and wearing her pyjamas.
Ms Damond had called police just before midnight because she could hear a woman near the alley screaming and asking for help.
Prosecutors said in their opening statements there was no fingerprint evidence that Ms Damond had slapped the car.
Joseph Cooksley, a forensic scientist for Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, however said he did not check for fingerprints near the roof of the vehicle where Noor's lawyers said Ms Damond slapped it.
The morning session was also heart-wrenching for Ms Damond's family when her two 911 calls to police were played in court and graphic photos from the scene of the shooting were shown.
"Hi, I can hear someone out the back and I'm not sure if she's having sex or being raped," Ms Damond told the operator.
She called the second time when police did not immediately arrive on the scene.
"No one is here and I was wondering if they got the address wrong," she asked the operator.
The operator reassured her police were on the way.
Mr Ruszczyk, his son Jason and Mr Damond were at the court's morning session when photos of the crime scene were shown depicting Ms Damond's body on the ground with a white sheet draped across her.
The top of her head, her left hand and bare feet were poking out of the sheet.
Her glittery gold iPhone was near her right foot.
Tears rolled down Mr Damond's cheek as the photos were shown.
Jason Ruszczyk slowly lent across and put his head on his father's right shoulder.
His heartbroken dad gave his son a comforting pat.