The former police officer who shot and killed Australian Justine Ruszczyk Damond has had his third-degree murder conviction reversed in court.
In July 2017, Ms Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual US-Australian citizen, called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her US home.
When she went outside to greet police, reportedly startling officer Mohamed Noor, 35, and his partner. Noor fired one shot at Ruszczyk Damond, killing her almost instantly.
In 2019, the former police officer was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
He was sentenced to 12 years and six months on the murder count but was not sentenced for manslaughter.
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the third-degree murder conviction, saying it does not fit the circumstances in this case.
He will be re-sentenced for the manslaughter charge. He has already served more than 28 months of his murder sentence.
Former officer could be free by end of the year
The 35-year-old is now facing a sentence of between 41 months to 57 months, a Hennepin County Attorney’s Office spokeswoman said, NBC News reports.
Noor's lawyer Peter Wold told the publication Noor could be eligible for supervised release by the end of the year.
"I talked to Mo this morning. It's relief, great relief," Wold said.
"He has a young son and it's time they get back together."
In the ruling, the Supreme Court said that for a third-degree murder charge, also known as "depraved-mind murder," the person's mental state must show a "generalised indifference to human life, which cannot exist when the defendant's conduct is directed with particularity at the person who is killed".
The justices said that the only reasonable inference that can be drawn in Noor's case is that his conduct was directed with particularity at Ruszczyk, "and the evidence is therefore insufficient to sustain his conviction... for depraved-mind murder".
"Noor's conduct is especially troubling given the trust that citizens should be able to place in our peace officers," the opinion written by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea reads.
"But the tragic circumstances of this case do not change the fact that Noor's conduct was directed with particularity toward Ruszczyk."
Prosecutors argue that Noor does fit the description because firing the shot could have also injured his partner or anyone else passing by.
Prosecutors told NBC News they are “disappointed” in the ruling but respect the decision.
Roll on effect for officers charged in George Floyd's death
The Supreme Court ruling could give former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin grounds to contest his own third-degree murder conviction in George Floyd's death in May 2020.
But that would not have much impact on Chauvin since he was also convicted of the more serious count of second-degree murder and is serving 22 and a half years.
The ruling in Noor's case has also been closely watched for its possible impact on three other former Minneapolis officers awaiting trial in Floyd's death.
Prosecutors had wanted to add charges of aiding and abetting third-degree murder against them but that is unlikely to happen now.
The trio are due to go on trial in March on charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.
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