News & Politics

Could Derek Chauvin Be Next? Court Vacates Ex-Minneapolis Cop’s Third-Degree Murder Conviction

(Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via AP, File)

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed a murder conviction Wednesday against former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor. The state’s first Somali-American cop — who was reportedly rushed through training by liberal city leadership — shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk in a 2017 tragedy that garnered international attention.

Minnesota Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, penning the unanimous opinion, said evidence used to convict Noor of third-degree “depraved-mind” murder does not hold up against state law, which says depraved-mind murder only occurs when someone perpetrates an act “eminently dangerous to others” and “without regard for human life.”

“The mental state necessary for depraved-mind murder is a generalized indifference to human life, which cannot exist when the defendant’s conduct is directed with particularity at the person who is killed,” reads the edict. “The only reasonable inference that can be drawn from the circumstances proved is that [Noor’s] conduct was directed with particularity at the person who was killed, and the evidence is therefore insufficient to sustain his conviction for depraved-mind murder.”

Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years in jail in June 2019 after he responded to Ruszczyk’s 911 call about an alleged sexual assault near her home. Ruszczyk had approached the police vehicle that arrived on the scene when Noor shot her in the abdomen. He was sitting in the passenger seat and said he considered her approach a potential ambush.

Noor has already served nearly two and a half years of his murder sentence. If sentenced to four years for manslaughter, he could be eligible for supervised release later this year.

The unanimous Supreme Court decision is a reversal of the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold Noor’s third-degree murder conviction. His second-degree manslaughter conviction still remains, and he will face resentencing on that conviction alone.

Neither party debates that Noor remains criminally responsible for killing Ruszczyk and should continue serving time for second-degree manslaughter.

“I think that the Court’s opinion in the Noor case should also result in the reversal of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction of third-degree murder in the George Floyd case,” Minnesota Lawyer Scott Johnson wrote Wednesday at Power Line.

“Chauvin, however, still has to contend with his second-degree murder and manslaughter convictions, and the reversal of the third-degree charge alone would not affect his sentence,” he continues. “The Court’s ruling in the Noor case nevertheless vindicates Chauvin trial judge Peter Cahill’s pretrial dismissal of the third-degree murder charge.”

Ruszczyk, 40, was one week from marrying Don Diamond when she was killed.

The City of Minneapolis awarded the Australia native’s family $20 million two years ago after finding “there was not a clear threat before the use of force was made.”