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Appeals court weighs Noor conviction in Justine Ruszczyk Damond case

Attorney in oral arguments says third-degree murder definition doesn't fit the case.

MINNEAPOLIS — Will the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor stand? It's now up to the Minnesota Court Of Appeals.

Mohamed Noor shot and killed Australian woman Justine Ruszczyk Damond in south Minneapolis in 2017 after she called 911 to report a possible crime.

Noor's attorney Thomas Plunkett argued before the three-judge panel on Wednesday that third-degree murder does not fit.

It is a rarely-used statute in Minnesota and is the same one that was just dismissed from former officer Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd case.

Plunkett argues that the crime requires that the defendant act with a "depraved mind," a term that's been interpreted in different ways. He argued it doesn't fit Noor's case.

“You need a frenzied anger, something that would show a depraved mind. And when you are focusing on a particular person, you do not have a depraved mind. If a mind is of such purpose as to focus on a target, it’s no longer depraved," Plunkett said.

RELATED: Noor sentenced to 12 years in fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond

Plunkett cited past examples of defendants convicted of the crime, including a drunk snowmobiler driving on a crowded frozen lake who hit and killed an 8-year-old boy in Jan. 2018.

A Hennepin County prosecutor argued that Noor essentially fired at a silhouette, and since he fired across his partner's lap and with a bicyclist nearby, the act fit the definition of third-degree murder. 

"That is imminently dangerous and without regard for human life," said Jean Burdorf, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney.

If the Minnesota Court of Appeals rules in favor of Noor on the third-degree murder charge, his 12-and-half-year prison sentence would be dramatically reduced even if they don't touch the manslaughter conviction.

They will decide within 90 days.

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