The state Supreme Court agreed Monday with unusual speed to hear former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor's appeal of his third-degree murder conviction.
Noor's lawyer Thomas Plunkett filed a petition last Thursday, asking the court to hear the case. It is extremely rare for the court to grant review so quickly but the charge Noor appealed has implications in the case against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer set to go on trial in Hennepin County District Court on Monday in the death of George Floyd.
In Chauvin's case, prosecutors are racing the clock to reinstate before trial a third-degree murder charge against the ex-cop, who already faces second-degree murder charge and manslaughter charges.
Before word came from the Supreme Court on Monday, the Court of Appeals earlier in the day heard oral arguments from on the prosecution's attempt to reinstate the third-degree charge against Chauvin.
In Noor's case, the Court of Appeals last month rejected Noor's appeal of his third-degree murder conviction in a 2-1 decision.
At issue in Noor's appeal are two questions: Can a person be convicted of third-degree murder if the deadly act is aimed at a single person and can the reckless nature of an act alone establish the necessary depraved mind-set?
In 2019, Noor became the first on-duty Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder when the third-degree charge was applied to him for "perpetuating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind."
Historically, third-degree murder charges have been used against drug dealers in overdose deaths.
Noor fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond when he fired out the window of his squad vehicle in an alley in southwest Minneapolis. He and his partner were responding to Damond's 911 call, reporting a possible sexual assault. As they drove through the alley, Noor testified that he saw a figure that he perceived as a deadly threat.
Plunkett argued that the depraved mind element of third-degree murder wasn't met because Noor was carrying out his duties as an officer, acted in a split second and directed his actions at a specific person out of fear that his partner's life was in danger from an ambush.
But the Court of Appeals disagreed with two judges saying third-degree can be applied when a defendant's actions are directed at a single person. The third judge disagreed and said Noor's murder conviction should be overturned.
Noor is currently serving a 12 ½-year sentence on the murder conviction. He was also convicted of second-degree manslaughter, which comes with a sentence of about four years.
The court did not set a hearing date for hearing Noor's appeal, a process that in ordinary circumstances would take months.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747