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Murder Verdict Reversed in Justine Damond Case

Minnesota Supreme Court rules the charge against ex-cop didn't fit the circumstances
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 15, 2021 10:50 AM CDT
Ex-Cop's Verdict Reversed in Justine Damond Case
In this June 7, 2019, file photo, former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor walks to the podium to be sentenced in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis.   (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP, Pool File)

(Newser) – The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the third-degree murder conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an Australian woman in 2017, saying the charge doesn't fit the circumstances in this case. Mohamed Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Justine Damond, a dual US-Australian citizen who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years on the murder count but was not sentenced for manslaughter. The ruling means his murder conviction is overturned and the case will now go back to the district court, where he'll be sentenced on the manslaughter count.

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He has already served more than 28 months of his murder sentence. If sentenced to the presumptive four years for manslaughter, he could be eligible for supervised release around the end of this year, reports the AP. The Star Tribune reports the language in the third-degree murder statute has repeatedly raised questions, because it applies when a defendant kills someone "by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind." The word "others" has come under the microscope, with attorneys arguing it means the statute only holds when more than one person is threatened.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court said that for a third-degree murder charge, the person's mental state must show a "generalized indifference to human life, which cannot exist when the defendant's conduct is directed with particularity at the person who is killed." The justices said that the only reasonable inference that can be drawn in Noor's case is that his conduct was directed with particularity at Damond, "and the evidence is therefore insufficient to sustain his conviction."

The Supreme Court ruling could give former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin grounds to contest his own third-degree murder conviction in George Floyd's death in May 2020. But that wouldn't have much impact on Chauvin, since he was also convicted of the more serious count of second-degree murder and is serving 22 1/2 years. The ruling in Noor's case was also closely watched for its possible impact on three other former Minneapolis officers awaiting trial in Floyd's death. Prosecutors had wanted to add charges of aiding and abetting third-degree murder against them, but that's unlikely to happen now. They face charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. (Read more Justine Damond stories.)

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