Justices to decide if charge fits Minneapolis police killing

The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in the case of Mohamed Noor, a former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of third-degree murder in the shooting death of an Australian woman who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home.

Noors attorneys argue that a divided Minnesota Court of Appeals failed to follow legal precedents defining third-degree murder when it affirmed Noors conviction. The high courts decision has repercussions for another high profile police killing case, the death of George Floyd. Besides second-degree murder, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was also convicted in April of third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The judge overseeing Chauvins trial initially threw out the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, but later reinstated the count after the Court of Appeals in February affirmed Noors conviction for third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin faces sentencing June 25. Prosecutors are seeking to add charges of aiding and abetting third-degree murder to the existing counts against three order ex-officers facing trial in Floyds death. All four former officers also face federal civil rights charges.

Noor was convicted in 2019 of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison in the 2017 death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual US-Australian citizen engaged to a Minneapolis man. Noor testified that a loud bang on the squad car startled him and his partner, and that he reached across his partner from the passenger seat and fired through the drivers window to protect his partners life. But prosecutors criticized Noor for shooting without seeing a weapon or even Damonds hands when she approached the car.

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A key issue is whether third-degree murder in Minnesota must involve actions that endangered multiple people, or if its sufficient that only one person was put at risk. Both sides in their written briefs cited previous cases to back up their positions on how the statute should be interpreted. The statute defines third-degree murder a an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life. The high court is being asked to decide whether dangerous to others must be read as plural, or if the fatal act can be directed at a single, specific person.

Prosecutors wrote in their brief that over 40 states have some form of depraved mind or depraved indifference homicide statute, but only a handful” require a defendant to endanger more than one person for prosecutors to get a conviction.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)

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