The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the third-degree murder conviction of a former Minneapolis cop who gunned down an Australian woman in 2017, likely leading to his prison sentence being slashed by eight years.
Wednesday’s decision rejected a February ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that upheld the conviction against Mohamed Noor in the July 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, the Star Tribune reported.
Noor was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison in 2019 after being convicted by a jury of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for shooting the unarmed yoga teacher who was engaged to be married while responding to her 911 call about a possible sexual assault in an alley behind her home.
Noor was not sentenced on the manslaughter count, meaning his case will now go back to district court for him to be sentenced. He has already served more than 28 months on the murder conviction and could be eligible for supervised release by the end of the year if he receives the presumptive four years for manslaughter, the Associated Press reported.
The ruling said that for a third-degree murder charge, or “depraved-mind murder,” the person’s mental state must show a “generalized indifference to human life,” which cannot exist because Noor’s actions were directed at a single person.
“The only reasonable inference that can be drawn from the circumstances proved is that appellant’s conduct was directed with particularity at the person who was killed, and the evidence is therefore insufficient to sustain his conviction … for depraved-mind murder,” according to the ruling.
Wednesday’s reversal affirmed what Noor’s attorneys have been claimed since his trial.
An attorney for Noor argued that the depraved mind element wasn’t met since the officer was carrying out his duties at the time and acted in a split second out of fear that his partner’s life was in danger, according to the newspaper.
“We may very well agree that Noor’s decision to shoot a deadly weapon simply because he was startled was disproportionate and unreasonable,” the ruling read. “Noor’s conduct is especially troubling given the trust that citizens should be able to place in our peace officers. But the tragic circumstances of this case do not change the fact that Noor’s conduct was directed with particularity toward Ruszczyk.”
Damond, a dual US-Australian citizen, was killed after she called 911 to report a possible rape near her Minneapolis home. Noor and another cop responded to the call when Damond approached the squad car to speak to Noor’s partner in the driver’s seat.
Noor testified at trial that he fired on Damond because he heard a loud bang on the driver’s door and thought his partner’s life was in danger. Police were never able to conclude if a sexual assault had occurred in the woman’s neighborhood, NBC News reported.
Wednesday’s ruling was closely watched for its possible impact on the third-degree murder conviction of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, but he was also convicted on a more serious charge of second-degree murder in George Floyd’s death. The 45-year-old ex-cop was sentenced in June to 22 ½ years in prison.
The ruling is also expected to impact the case against three other former Minneapolis officers awaiting trial in Floyd’s death, as prosecutors are now unlikely to add charges of aiding and abetting third-degree murder against Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, according to the Associated Press.
An attorney for Noor, meanwhile, praised the high court’s ruling, saying she hopes it leads to more consistency during charging decisions.
“We’ve said from the beginning that this was a tragedy but it wasn’t a murder, and now the Supreme Court agrees and recognizes that,” attorney Caitlinrose Fisher said.
Somali American police officer Mohamed Noor shot Aussie Justine Damond in July 2017.
Damond called the police to report a possible assault down the alley behind her home.
When she went out to meet the police car in her pajamas Noor reached over his partner and shot her dead.
Mohamed was the first Somali officer in his precinct.
Damond was shot and killed while wearing her pajamas and speaking to another police officer. Damond called 911 that night to report a possible assault in an alley behind her home on July 15, reports The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
NOOR’S PARTNER WAS DESCRIBED AS “STUNNED” BY THE SHOOTING.
In May Mohamed Noor was found guilty of third degree murder of Justine Damond (Ruszczyk).
On Friday Mohamed Noor was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison in June 2019 for the fatal shooting of an unarmed Australian yoga teacher after she had called police to report a possible sexual assault near her home.
The Minnesota Supreme Court tossed the murder conviction against Somali Police Officer Mohamed Noor on Wednesday.
NBC News reported:
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the third-degree murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who fatally shot a 911 caller four years ago.
Noor was also convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond on July 15, 2017, and that verdict still stands.
The former officer will be re-sentenced for the manslaughter conviction alone, as opposed to the 12 1/2-year penalty handed down to him in 2019 for murder.
Noor is now looking at a sentence of between 41 months to 57 months for that lesser conviction, a Hennepin County Attorney’s Office spokeswoman said.
Some killer cops are better than others.