The Minnesota Supreme Court‘s decision on Wednesday to reverse a third-degree murder conviction for a former Minneapolis police officer could lead to fellow former Officer Derek Chauvin contesting his own conviction, the Associated Press reported. Chauvin was convicted of second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter in April for the death of George Floyd, who died after the officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes in May 2020.
A person can only be charged with third degree murder, also referred to as “depraved-mind murder,” when the mental state of the person responsible demonstrates a “generalized indifference to human life, which cannot exist when the defendant’s conduct is directed with particularity at the person who is killed,” the Supreme Court wrote in the Wednesday ruling. This reasoning led to the court’s decision to overturn former Officer Mohamed Noor’s conviction for the charge on the grounds that it did not match the circumstances of his case, the AP reported.
The ruling could give Chauvin a base to contest his own conviction for the charge, but even if successfully overturned, it would not impact the 22 1/2 years the former officer is serving for second degree murder. Chauvin is unlikely to successfully appeal and overturn the more serious second-degree murder conviction, experts have said.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:
Noor was convicted of third degree murder and second degree manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual U.S.-Australian citizen who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years on the murder count but was not sentenced for manslaughter.
The ruling means his murder conviction is overturned and the case will now go back to the district court, where he will be sentenced on the manslaughter count. He has already served more than 28 months of his murder sentence. If sentenced to the presumptive four years for manslaughter, he could be eligible for supervised release around the end of this year.
The justices said the only reasonable inference that can be drawn in Noor’s case is that his conduct was directed with particularity at Damond, “and the evidence is therefore insufficient to sustain his conviction…for depraved-mind murder.”
The ruling in Noor’s case was also 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’s 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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