The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of Mohamed Noor, a former Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Justine Ruzcyzk Damond. Noor was subsequently convicted of murder in the third degree and manslaughter, and is now serving out a 12 ½ year prison sentence. The Supreme Court has allowed a hearing for his case because the decision will directly pertain to Derek Chauvin’s third-degree murder charge.
Officer Noor’s oral argument will be heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court in June 2021. Normally, an appeal such as Noor’s would take months. However, its urgency is pertinent to Derek Chauvin’s trial, which is fast-approaching.
There are two essential questions that Noor’s appeal will address. Can an individual be convicted of third-degree murder if the actions of the defendant only target a single individual? Can the recklessness of the action alone merit charges of evincing a depraved mind?
Noor argues that his actions only targeted a single individual and did not harm anyone near Damond. At the scene of the shooting, Noor had been responding to Damond’s call regarding a sexual assault. Noor thought that he perceived an individual who would bring imminent harm to his partner, so he fired his weapon. Unfortunately, Noor’s judgement was flawed and Damond was killed. Noor’s attorney argues that since his actions only brought harm to a single individual, the third-degree murder charge clause, “an act eminently dangerous to others,” would not apply in his case. His actions brought harm to the person that was killed and no one nearby was harmed by the shooting.
Similarly, Derek Chauvin brought no harm to any bystanders, when he brought fatal injury to George Floyd. The harm that Chauvin perpetrated was only toward George Floyd and was not “eminently dangerous to others.” If the Supreme Court were to overturn Noor’s third-degree murder conviction, Chauvin’s charge would remain dismissed.
The oral argument that Noor’s lawyer will present also includes an objection to whether Noor evinced a depraved mind. Noor’s attorney argues that he was only conducting his duties as an officer and that he acted out of pure reflex to a perceived threat. Officer Noor’s attorney will also likely argue that his actions were not of a depraved mind and that he meant only to protect the safety of his partner. His argument will likely conclude that Noor’s actions alone do not warrant grounds for a conviction.
Perhaps the most difficult question to answer is if actions alone serve as justification for claiming a depraved mindset. Certainly, no one is able to objectively perceive the thoughts and intentions of another. This is why this ruling will be so difficult in the end, as it comes down to determining what the prior thoughts and intentions of an individual were in a heated moment. Any decision the Supreme Court makes will have a direct impact on whether Chauvin can face the same charge.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your own criminal charges or appellate case, a skilled Minnesota attorney could help. Call our firm today to set up a consultation and learn more about your options.