Prosecution rests in Mpls. triple homicide caseby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Testimony ended Wednesday in the trial of Mahdi Hassan Ali in Hennepin County District Court. Ali is accused of killing three men at the Seward Market in Minneapolis last year.
The state wrapped up its case Wednesday morning after calling more than 30 witnesses to the stand in testimony that lasted more than a week. Defense attorney Fred Goetz called three witnesses who occupied the stand for a total of about an hour.
One defense witness, Abshir Asse, went to school with Ali, robbery accomplice Ahmed Abdi Ali and a young man named Abdisalon Ali. Ahmed and Abdisalon are cousins. They are not related to accused killer Mahdi Ali. Asse testified that on the day after the shootings at the Seward Market, Abdisalon confessed to him that he participated in the robbery. "He told me he needed to get something off his chest," said Asse.
Abdisalon Ali testified to the contrary earlier in the trial. Abdisalon said he was with the two others earlier in the day but was dropped off at home before the robbery. Abdisalon was questioned by police, but never arrested or charged with any connection to the crime.
Asse contends that Abdisalon told him he was worried that Mahdi might talk to authorities. "He said he wanted to kill Mahdi to protect himself and his cousin," said Asse.
However, prosecuting attorney Chuck Weber pointed to a statement Asse gave to police last year in which he told officers that Abdisalon told him that Mahdi was still the one who pulled the trigger.
The state's final witness was Erin Hoffman, a forensic scientist from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Hoffman testified that DNA samples taken from a pair of jeans found in Ali's apartment matched DNA from Mohammed Warfa, one of the three men killed in the store that night.
Another sample contained a mixture of DNA from at least three or more unknown individuals. Defense attorney Goetz asked Hoffman about a checklist which indicated that the DNA of an employee of the BCA could not be eliminated as a possible contributor. Hoffman said the employee was an investigator who didn't have access to the laboratory. And she said she's confident there was no contamination of any samples.
While the jury was on a break, Judge Peter Cahill asked Ali directly if he understood that he has a right to testify on his own behalf. Ali told Cahill, "I waive my right to testify." Cahill asked him again if the decision was his alone. Ali replied, "I understand both sides and it is my decision."
Closing arguments in the trial begin Thursday morning. The jury will begin their deliberations in the afternoon. Judge Cahill will not sequester the jury; they will be allowed to go home at the end of each day of deliberation.