The Minnesota Supreme Court has thrown out the third-degree "depraved-mind" murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in connection with Justine Ruszczyk's shooting death,
Noor, in April of 2019, was convicted of both third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for his actions the night of July 15, 2017. He shot and killed the pajama-clad Ruszczyk as she approached his squad car, with Noor saying he pulled the trigger thinking there was a threat.
He was given 12 1/2 years in prison, a sentence based solely on the third-degree murder charge — a crime that involves acting with a "depraved mind, without regard for human life."
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office, led by Mike Freeman, prosecuted the case. The jury's guilty verdict marked the first time in state history a police officer was convicted of murder in connection with an on-duty incident.
But Noor appealed that depraved-mind murder conviction, citing the precedent of a "particular-person exclusion." He argued that, if a person's behavior is specifically and intentionally directed at one person, the perpetrator cannot be convicted of that third-degree murder charge.
The court of appeals in February upheld the third-degree murder conviction, though the panel members were divided on the matter. Noor then appealed to the state Supreme Court.
In a Wednesday opinion (read it here), the justices sided with his argument, agreeing that this "particular-person exclusion" did indeed apply to his case. They cited a number of previous cases that had clearly defined this exclusion with regards to third-degree murder.
"Applying the particular-person exclusion to the facts of Noor’s case, as we must, we hold that the State presented insufficient evidence to prove that Noor acted with a 'depraved mind, without regard for human life,'" the opinion reads.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to district court, saying Noor must be sentenced only on the second-degree manslaughter conviction.
Under Minnesota law, second-degree manslaughter is punishable by a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and/or a fine up to $20,000.