Will Derek Chauvin walk free? Mohamed Noor verdict significant
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: A Minneapolis cop's murder conviction for fatally shooting an unarmed woman was reversed on Wednesday, September 15. Experts believe this reversal could potentially help overturn the murder conviction in the verdict pronounced on George Floyd's killer Derek Chauvin.
The Minnesota Supreme Court tossed out ex-Minneapolis cop Mohamed Noor’s third-degree “depraved-mind murder” conviction after he was sentenced to 12.5 years for fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk, 40, on July 15, 2017. Now, legal experts believe the court's decision could serve as a precedent for one of Derek Chauvin's murder counts to be tossed. MEAWW previously reported how the disgraced officer had sparked outrage after he wasn't handcuffed while leaving the courtroom. We also reported how the ex-cop had kneeled on a 14-year-old boy's back for 17 minutes, but the jury wouldn't hear about it.
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Ruszczyk believed a sexual assault was being committed in an alley behind her home and called 911. Noor, who was the responding officer, pulled out his service weapon upon arriving at the scene and fired at a "figure" after suspecting “this could be a possible ambush or something.” The victim tragically turned out to be Ruszczyk standing at her window.
“Noor’s bullet struck Ruszczyk in her abdomen, and she died moments later from the gunshot wound,” the court noted in its decision while determining whether the cop deserved to be found guilty of “third-degree depraved-mind murder.” The court concluded that Noor's claim that he fired his gun at Ruszczyk because he was “startled” by her sudden appearance was “disproportionate and unreasonable.” However, judges ruled that Noor never acted with a “depraved mind, without regard for human life” and therefore they ruled to “reverse Noor’s conviction for depraved-mind murder.”
In April this year, 45-year-old Chauvin was found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for killing George Floyd, on whose neck the Minneapolis cop leaned his knee on for over nine minutes. Now, the Minnesota SC's decision in favor of ex-officer Noor may help toss out the third-degree murder conviction in Chauvin's case.
"It's crystal clear now that Derek Chauvin cannot be [guilty] of murder three," Joseph Daly, emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, insisted to the Minneapolis Star. The publication noted that Chauvin is currently serving 22.5 years in prison based solely on the second-degree murder count, considering the two lower counts were listed as "no adjudication," or, not convictions.
The three former cops who were with Chauvin on May 25, 2020, are expected to be tried in March 2022 for aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. A spokesman for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office told The Star that they were studying the Supreme Court decision and sought to add third-degree murder to the men's pending cases.
Speaking to Vice News, Andrew Wilson, a partner at Wilson Criminal Defense in Minneapolis, agreed that Noor's victory in court could help Chauvin and his fellow ex-cops implicated in Floyd’s murder. “Chauvin will likely have his decision reversed because it is legally incompatible to say that someone is guilty of intentionally doing something and at the same time they’re guilty of unintentionally doing something,” Wilson said.
Meanwhile, Former Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner believes the ruling will prompt Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson to use the third-degree reversal as precedent to appeal his client's conviction, saying it may have unfairly impacted his defense. However, Gaertner is doubtful if the ploy will work. "Do I think that argument will be successful?" the former prosecutor-turned-defense attorney rhetorically asked. "No," she concluded.