A fired Minneapolis police officer gets another chance at a shorter prison stay after a court dismissed his conviction for a third-degree murder charge. Mohamed Noor, 36, is scheduled for a resentencing to begin on Thursday at 9 a.m. CT / 10 a.m. ET for killing 911 caller Justine Ruszczyk (who was also known as Justine Damond). You can watch in the player above.
The hearing stems from the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissing his conviction for third-degree murder, therefore reducing his 12 and a half year prison sentence. This just leaves a conviction for second-degree manslaughter after jurors acquitted him of second-degree murder. His attorneys are asking for a total of 41-months in prison, which is the lower end of the range, according to KSTP.
His lawyers argued to the court that the third-degree murder statute only related to unintended killings of a third-party victim, where harm was intended toward another person or group. His attorneys argued he could not be convicted of third-degree murder because he pointed his gun at, shot, and killed only Ruszczyk herself. Prosecutors countered that the third-degree murder statute could apply more broadly to a case where a defendant unintentionally killed the same exact person toward whom he exhibited eminently dangerous conduct and a disregard for human life.
Justices did not buy it and said the state was either twisting case law or cherry-picking it out of context.
Ruszczyk had called 911 on July 15, 2017, after hearing a woman screaming in an alley behind her home.
Responding officers Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity got scared at the scene. From Harrity’s point of view, there was a “pop” and “flash.” Noor testified there was a “loud bang” on the driver’s side. In this account from the Minnesota Supreme Court, Harrity believed this was possibly an ambush.
From the Minnesota Supreme Court:
Noor testified that as soon as he entered the Code 4, he heard a “loud bang” on the driver’s side. At the same time, someone appeared outside the driver’s-side window. Harrity looked at the figure and screamed, “Oh, Jesus,” and immediately reached for his gun. Noor claimed that Harrity looked at him “with fear in his eyes” and that his gun appeared caught in its holster. Noor observed a blonde woman wearing a pink shirt. Noor testified that she began raising her right arm toward Harrity, so Noor rose from his seat, put his left arm across Harrity’s chest, fired one shot at the woman, and “[t]he threat was gone.” When they got out of the car, Noor realized that he shot an innocent person. Still, he testified that—in the moment—he shot out of concern for Harrity’s life.
Aaron Keller contributed to this report.
[Jail photo via Hennepin County]
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