The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the third-degree murder conviction of former Minneapolis police Officer Mohamed Noor, who fatally shot a 911 caller four years ago.
Noor was also convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond on July 15, 2017, and that verdict still stands.
But the high court ruled that prosecutors did not prove that Noor had acted with a “depraved mind, without regard for human life,” which would be needed for the third-degree murder conviction.
That statute has always been used in cases when a defendant is accused of endangering multiple people and not targeting a single individual, according to the court.
Prosecutors had argued Noor fit that description because his fatal shot at Damond could have also wounded the officer’s partner or a passing bicyclist.
The court ruled it was clear Noor was only targeting the woman he killed.
“In sum, our precedent confirms that Noor is correct in arguing that a person does not commit depraved-mind murder when the person’s actions are directed at a particular victim,” according to the opinion by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea.
“The particular-person exclusion is simply another way of saying that the mental state for depraved-mind murder is one of general malice.”
Damnod had called 911 that night believing she heard a woman in her neighborhood being assaulted. When Damond went outside to greet police, she startled the responding officers, Noor and partner Matthew Harrity, the officers said.
Noor fired one shot, killing the innocent 911 caller Damond. Police were never able to conclude that there had been an assault in Damond’s neighborhood.
Noor will be resentenced for the manslaughter conviction alone. The former police officer was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison in 2019.
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