Appeals court upholds Noor murder conviction, denies retrial
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed the third-degree murder conviction of former Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor.
Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017 while responding to Damond’s 911 call about a possible sexual assault behind her south Minneapolis home.
His attorneys argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict Noor of third-degree murder and the court wrongly allowed prosecutors to present two expert witnesses who provided similar testimony.
The three-judge panel looked at five points in considering his appeal:
- Whether the evidence at the trial was sufficient to support the jury’s guilty verdict for third-degree murder,
- Whether the evidence was sufficient to disprove Noor’s affirmative defense of authorized use of deadly force,
- Whether the court violated Noor’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial,
- Whether the court violated Noor’s right to due process by limiting testimony about nationwide ambushes of police officers,
- Whether the court abused its discretion by admitting the testimony of both state expert witnesses.
The appeals court ruled that even though Noor’s "death-causing act was directed at a single person and the result of a split-second decision," the evidence at his trial was sufficient to establish he committed third-degree murder. Because he didn’t establish a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial, the judges also ruled that Noor isn’t entitled to a new trial.
Judge Matthew Johnson dissented on the first point, stating he didn’t believe there was sufficient evidence to support the depraved-mind third-degree murder conviction, but otherwise agreed with Judge Michelle Larkin and Judge Louise Dovre Bjorkman on the remaining four points.
Noor’s lawyers issued the following statement:
"We respectfully disagree with the majority’s opinion published today in Mr. Noor’s appeal. The split decision, while disappointing, is not entirely disheartening. The dissenting opinion raises compelling issues. In the coming weeks, we will ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to review this important matter."
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, whose office prosecuted the case, issued the following statement:
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office agrees with the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ decision today affirming the conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor in the shooting death of Justine Damond Ruszczyk. After reviewing the evidence from the investigation, we concluded that a third-degree murder charge was one of several appropriate charges given the facts of this case and for holding police officers accountable when their use of deadly force is unlawful and excessive.
Successful prosecutions of police officers’ unlawful use of deadly force are rare in the United State. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office charged this case because of Officer Noor’s outrageous conduct. We were criticized for bringing that charge. But our prosecutors did remarkable work and the jury agreed and found him guilty. Now the Minnesota Court of Appeals has supported our legal theory as well.