Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor filed a petition Thursday asking the state Supreme Court to overturn his third-degree murder conviction in the death of an Australian woman, a case with implications for the imminent prosecution of a former officer in the death of George Floyd.
The state Supreme Court now must decide whether to consider Noor's appeal in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. If the court declines, a recent Court of Appeals ruling will stand.
In that appellate decision, the court voted 2-1 to uphold Noor's third-degree murder conviction, saying he met the legal threshold for a "depraved mind" and that the charge can apply when a defendant's actions are directed at a single person.
The petition for a state Supreme Court hearing focuses solely on two questions: Can a person be convicted of third-degree murder if the deadly act is aimed at a single person and can the reckless nature of an act alone establish the necessary depraved mind-set?
Noor's petition says a ruling from the Supreme Court is needed to differentiate between third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The outcome has implications in the case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the man seen kneeling on Floyd's neck in the video from May 25. Prosecutors in Chauvin's case are seeking to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against him based on the Court of Appeals' ruling in Noor. Jury selection is scheduled to start in Chauvin's trial on March 8 in Hennepin County District Court.
On Monday, the state Court of Appeals will hear arguments from Chauvin's prosecutors about whether to reinstate the third-degree charge against him. Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the charge last October, writing that Chauvin's actions were directed at Floyd alone. He rejected prosecutors' request to refile the charge earlier this month, leading to their request of the Court of Appeals to intervene.
In 2019, Noor became the first on-duty Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder when the charge was applied to him for "perpetuating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind." The charge is generally reserved for defendants in overdose deaths.
Noor was also convicted of second-degree manslaughter, which comes with a presumptive sentence of about four years, significantly less than the 12 ½-year sentence he is serving.
Noor's attorney Thomas Plunkett argued that the depraved mind element wasn't fulfilled because Noor was carrying out his duties as an officer, acted in a split second and directed his actions at a specific person out of fear that his partner's life was in danger from an ambush.
The Court of Appeals ruling by Judges Louise Dovre Bjorkman and Michelle Larkin upheld Noor's conviction. The third judge on the panel, Matthew Johnson, wanted to reverse Noor's murder conviction and order him to be sentenced on the second-degree manslaughter charge.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747