On Wednesday, September 15th, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the 3rd Degree Murder conviction of Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis Police Officer who shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk while responding to a call for help. The Minnesota Supreme Court clarified that the mental-state required to be convicted of 3rd Degree Murder—Depraved Mind, “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.” Because Mr. Noor’s actions were directed specifically at his victim, his conduct, as a matter of law, did not meet the requirements to sustain a conviction for 3rd Degree Murder. He will remain convicted of 2nd Degree Manslaughter, and return to court to be sentenced on that charge, which carries a lesser possible penalty.
This decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court is not a surprise. As we stated back in May 2020 when the Hennepin County Attorney's Office charged Derek Chauvin and his co-defendants with 3rd Degree Murder as the highest charge for the killing of George Floyd, this was never an appropriate charge for Chauvin and his co-defendants. It was, and still is, inconceivable that experienced, professional Hennepin County prosecutors did not recognize the potential flaws in the Third Degree Murder charge for the officers' murder of George Floyd.
In Chauvin and his co-defendants cases, the Minnesota Attorney General's Office took over as lead prosecution and added 2nd degree murder charges. Chauvin was ultimately convicted on all charges against him at trial (his co-defendant's are scheduled for trial on March 7, 2020). Therefore, although Chauvin's 3rd Degree Murder conviction will almost certainly be overturned on appeal as well, it is highly unlikely that he will receive a sentence reduction because he was ultimately sentenced on 2nd Degree Murder, which is not impacted by the Supreme Court's decision in this case.
It is with simultaneous feelings of great joy and loss that we announce that our Deputy Director for Community Legal Services, Andrew Gordon, has been appointed by Governor Tim Walz to serve as a judge in the Second Judicial District (Ramsey County). Andrew has been a crucial member of our organization since he joined us in 2010. Whether advocating for the rights of individual clients or for transformative change in the legal system, Andrew’s passion, integrity, and legal brilliance has been a gift to our organization. He will be missed around the offices of the Legal Rights Center but we couldn’t be more excited for Andrew and the broader community as he takes this next step.
Andrew’s last day at the Legal Rights Center will be September 3rd. For questions, contact Executive Director Sarah Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org
LRC staff include attorneys and advocates from a range of background and lived experiences.
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