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15 Sep, 2021 18:37

Minnesota Supreme Court overturns murder conviction of ex-cop who killed Justine Damond

Minnesota Supreme Court overturns murder conviction of ex-cop who killed Justine Damond

The Minnesota Supreme Court has overturned the third-degree murder conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who shot an unarmed Australian woman dead. The ex-cop will now be sentenced for manslaughter instead.

Mohamed Noor, a Somali-American former police officer, was convicted in 2019 of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond on the night of July 15, 2017. Damond, a dual citizen of Australia and the US, had called to report a possible sexual assault taking place outside her home; Noor shot her as she approached his squad car.

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Noor was acquitted of second-degree murder at his trial, but was found guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter, and sentenced to 12 and a half years behind bars for the former offense. 

However, Minnesota’s Supreme Court reversed that conviction on Wednesday, ruling that, in order for a third-degree or “depraved mind” conviction to stand, the defendant must display “generalized indifference to human life.” In this case, there was “insufficient” evidence that Noor had displayed a “depraved mind.”

During his 2019 trial, Noor’s lawyers argued that he feared for his patrol partner’s life as Damond approached their squad car in the dark alley outside her home, raising her hand outside the driver’s side window of the vehicle. Prosecutors argued that Noor jumped to using lethal force without assessing the situation first.

Noor’s case will now go back to a lower court, where he will be sentenced for the second-degree manslaughter conviction. He has already served 22 months for murder, and with that time subtracted from a likely four-year sentence for manslaughter, the former cop could be eligible for supervised release at the end of this year, CBS News reported.

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Until Derek Chauvin was found guilty this year of murdering George Floyd, Noor was the only Minnesota police officer ever convicted for killing someone in the line of duty. Unlike Floyd, Noor was defended by activists who argued that he was unfairly punished due to his ethnicity.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which aggressively pushed for a conviction in the Chauvin case, argued in the case of Noor that the “blonde, blue eyed, white” Damond was the “ideal victim by which prosecutors could take advantage of racist tropes to secure a conviction of Noor.”

With Noor’s murder conviction now overturned, Chauvin holds the dishonor of being the only cop in the state successfully convicted of murder. The reversal of Noor’s murder charge will likely be of no legal use to Chauvin either. While Chauvin too was convicted of third-degree murder, he was also found guilty of the more serious charge of second-degree murder, which would be a harder charge to contest.

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