On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the third-degree murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual American and Australian citizen, in 2017.
According to the Star Tribune, Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, had petitioned the high court in June arguing that his client’s actions did not fall under the requirements needed to convict for third-degree murder.
The Tribune notes that according to the state’s statute, a third-degree murder charge can only be applied when a defendant kills someone “by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind.”
From the Star Tribune:
The state’s highest court said such a state cannot exist when a defendant’s conduct is aimed at a particular person. The ruling affirmed what Noor’s lawyers have claimed since trial — that third-degree murder didn’t apply because his actions were focused on a single person.
In Noor’s case, the high court agreed. “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,” Gildea wrote.
Noor fatally shot Damond after responding to a 911 call she made to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. A jury found Noor guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in 2019 and he was sentenced to prison for 12 and half years.
According to CBS Minnesota, Noor testified in court that he shot Damond after he heard a loud noise and saw a woman lift her hand outside the police squad car. Earlier this year, the Minnesota Court of Appeals decided to uphold the murder conviction resulting in his attorney petitioning the state’s highest court.
Now, the state supreme court has rejected that decision and ordered that the case go to district court where Noor will be sentenced for second-degree manslaughter. Since Noor has no criminal history, he is likely to be sentenced to about 4 years, the Tribune notes. He has already served 30 months.
Damond’s family received $20 million in a settlement with the city in 2019. The family has not yet made a statement about the court’s decision.