On September 18, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court published their decision in the case of State v. Mohamed Noor, who was a former Minneapolis police officer, who was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of Justine Ruszczyk in July 2017. As a result of the conviction, Noor was sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison for the third-degree murder charge. This sentence is typical for third-degree murder under Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld Noor’s conviction for third-degree murder, reasoning that one could be convicted of third-degree murder (what is called “depraved heart” murder) even if the defendant’s actions were directed at a single individual. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed with this conclusion. The Supreme Court’s ruling last week threw out Noor’s third-degree murder conviction due to “insufficient” evidence. More specifically, the Court ruled that the statute requires a general indifference to human life—such as shooting indiscriminately into a crowd, versus shooting at a specific individual. This general indifference element is not met in cases, such as Noor’s, where the conduct is directed at a particular person.
As a result of this ruling, the third-degree murder sentence will be vacated and Noor will be resentenced on the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter. According to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, the standard sentence for second-degree manslaughter is 4 years. Because under Minnesota law, a defendant serves 2/3 of their sentence, Noor may be released from prison in as little as a month or two.