The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the third degree murder conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who shot dead an unarmed Australian woman. The ex-cop will now be convicted of manslaughter.
Mohamed Noor, a former US-Somali police officer, was convicted in 2019 of third degree murder and second degree manslaughter for shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond on the night of July 15, 2017. Damond, dual Australian nationality and American, called to report a possible sexual assault outside her home; Noor shot her as she approached her patrol car.
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Noor was acquitted of second degree murder at his trial, but was convicted of third degree murder and manslaughter, and sentenced to 12.5 years behind bars for the first offense.
However, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned that conviction on Wednesday, ruling that for a third degree or “depraved mind” conviction to stay, the defendant must display “Generalized indifference to human life”. In this case there was “insufficient” proof that Noor had shown “Depraved mind”.
At his trial in 2019, Noor’s lawyers argued that he feared for the life of his patrol partner as Damond approached their patrol car in the dark alley outside his house, raising his hand in front of the window on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Prosecutors argued that Noor jumped to the use of lethal force without first assessing the situation.
Noor’s case will now return to a lower court, where he will be convicted of the second degree manslaughter conviction. He’s already served 22 months for murder, and with that time off a likely four-year sentence for manslaughter, the former cop may be eligible for supervised release at the end of this year, CBS News reported.
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Until Derek Chauvin was convicted this year of murdering George Floyd, Noor was the only Minnesota police officer ever convicted of killing someone in the line of duty. Unlike Floyd, Noor has been defended by activists who have argued that he has been unfairly punished because of his ethnicity.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which aggressively pushed for a conviction in the Chauvin case, argued in the Noor case that the “blonde, blue eyes, white” Damond was the “The ideal victim whereby prosecutors could take advantage of racist tropes to secure a conviction of Noor.”
With Noor’s murder conviction now overturned, Chauvin has the disgrace of being the only cop in the state successfully convicted of murder. The overturning of Noor’s murder charge is unlikely to have any legal value for Chauvin either. While Chauvin was also convicted of third degree murder, he was also convicted of the more serious charge of second degree murder, which would be a more difficult charge to dispute.
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