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On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned half the sentence of a former Somali police officer who’d killed a white Australian woman in 2017.
In 2017, then-rookie Minneapolis Police Department officer Mohamed Noor fatally shot 40-year-old yoga instructor Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian-American with dual citizenship, after she called 911 to report having heard a woman screaming.
Two years later, Noor was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison after being convicted for third-degree “depraved-mind” murder and second-degree manslaughter.
This week the Minnesota Supreme Court specifically overturned the first charge of third-degree “depraved-mind” murder and ordered a lower court to issue a new sentence for just the second-degree manslaughter charge.
“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,” according to NBC News.
“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,” NBC News reported.
“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. The particular-person exclusion is simply another way of saying that the mental state for depraved-mind murder is one of general malice,” the actual ruling reads.
The Ruszczyk family was devastated by the ruling, according to local station WCCO.
“Our family woke this morning to news of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision that Mohamed Noor’s depraved and senseless shooting of our beloved Justine does not count as murder under Minnesota law. We are again heartbroken, because we agreed with the trial court, lower appellate court, and, most importantly, the jury of Minnesota residents who believed it does. Their voices should be respected,” they said in a statement.
“It remains for Noor to be resentenced for his conviction of second-degree manslaughter, a conviction even he does not dispute. While his new punishment may be reduced from the 12.5 years currently on record, our family knows that Noor’s conduct is just as reprehensible today as when he killed her in 2017. The Supreme Court’s opinion simply cannot change that,” they added.
A separate statement from Damond’s husband, Don Damond, was even more damning.
“I have lived with the tragic loss of Justine and none of this can hurt my heart more than it has been, but now it truly feels like there has been no justice for Justine,” he said.
NEW: Statement from Don Damond, Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s fiancé, regarding the MN Supreme Court overturning former MPD Officer Mohamed Noor’s 3rd degree murder conviction. @WCCO pic.twitter.com/zlF3bwQfgd
— Nick Streiff (@nickstreiff) September 15, 2021
According to NPR, it’s likely that Noor will be released from custody by the end of this year, at the latest.
“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,” the outlet notes.
When Noor arrived at Damond’s house four years ago, she reportedly ran up to the cruiser and tapped on the window so she could speak with the officers. Reportedly frightened, Noor immediately opened fire, killing her on the scene.
The case drew widespread notoriety because of the racial aspect, with the left-wing media obsessing over how Damond’s killing by a Muslim would affect the Muslim community, and conservatives claiming Noor was an “affirmative-action hire.”
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) July 20, 2017
After Noor was sentenced in 2019, Black Lives Matter activists protested, claiming that Noor was treated more harshly than other cops because of his race.
To be clear, they weren’t arguing that the sentence was wrong — but rather that similar sentences should be doled out to all cops who’ve ever killed someone.
There was, as usual, no recognition of the fact that the vast majority of people killed by the police are non-innocent suspects.
A protest by #BlackLivesMatter activists has erupted outside the Minneapolis courthouse where former police officer Mohamed Noor was found guilty of the murder of Australian woman Justine Damond Ruszczyk. https://t.co/a1RsUIBVMZ @PaulKadak #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/XpMowYzOjI
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) May 2, 2019
Non-innocent suspects like, say, Daunte Wright, the street hoodlum who was fatally shot by former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter, a white woman, as he was resisting arrest last year.
Despite the vast difference in circumstances, Potter has been treated virtually the same as Noor and currently faces first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter charges.
She was initially charged with just second-degree manslaughter, but then Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison suddenly added a first-degree manslaughter charge earlier this month.
Interestingly, on the same day that Noor’s charges were vacated, Potter’s attorneys filed a motion demanding that their client’s first-degree manslaughter charge be vacated as well.
“In the filing on Wednesday, the attorneys claim that the amended complaint ‘underplays’ Wright’s conduct during the incident, noting he had a warrant out for his arrest, resisted arrest and committed “by Supreme Court opinion, a dangerous crime” by driving away,” according to local station KSTP.
According to famed criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos, the ruling in Noor’s case could be a major boon for convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chavin as well.
“This is the case that served as the predicate for Chauvin’s murder charge,” he noted in a tweet early Thursday morning.
Indeed, because if the predicate for Chauvin’s case is now moot, the case against him could soon be moot as well.
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