US court orders former officer resentenced in Australian woman's shooting death

A lower court has been ordered to resentence Noor (centre) based on his lesser manslaughter conviction in the death of Justine Ruszczyk.
A lower court has been ordered to resentence Noor (centre) based on his lesser manslaughter conviction in the death of Justine Ruszczyk.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The Minnesota Supreme Court vacated the third-degree murder conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer on Wednesday (Sept 15) and ordered his resentencing on a lesser conviction in the death of an Australian-American woman who called for emergency help.

The woman, Justine Ruszczyk, called the police on the night of July 15, 2017, after hearing a woman screaming near her home.

As she approached the police vehicle, the police officer, Mohamed Noor, fired his gun at her from the passenger seat, killing her.

In 2019, a jury acquitted Noor of second-degree murder but convicted him of third-degree “depraved-mind murder” and second-degree manslaughter, and he was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison. An appeals court upheld the convictions.

“The issue before us on appeal is not whether Noor is criminally responsible for Ruszczyk’s death; he is, and his conviction of second-degree manslaughter stands,” state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea wrote.

But the high court overturned the third-degree murder conviction because it said the lower court erred in finding that Noor committed a “depraved-mind murder” while at the same time finding that he specifically intend to shoot Ruszczyk.

Rather, the court found that a “generalised indifference to human life” necessary for a third-degree murder conviction in Minnesota “cannot exist when the defendant’s conduct is directed with particularity at the person who is killed.”

Seen in their entirety, the circumstances proved in court do not show that Noor was shooting indiscriminately, the court concluded in a 28-page ruling. Instead, it was apparent that Noor’s shot was directed specifically at Ruszczyk, it said.

The court remanded the case back to the district court that originally sentenced Noor so that he could be resentenced.