In the latest shocking twist in the case against an ex-policeman who is facing murder and manslaughter charges over the death of Aussie woman Justine Ruszczyk Damond, defendant Mohamed Noor’s lawyers have now filed a motion for all charges to be dropped.
Noor was landed with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in March this year, eight months after the fatal shooting of 40-year-old Damond, in Minneapolis, USA.
Under US law, a third-degree murder charge indicates the homicide was not deliberately planned or committed in the process of committing a felony, while second-degree manslaughter indicates that there may have been criminally negligent or reckless conduct involved in the death. The degree of charges dictate what level of penalty can be applied by the court.
However now Noor’s lawyers want those charges to be dismissed completely, arguing prosecutorial misconduct and lack of probable cause, reports The Australian.
Damond, who worked as a life coach and was engaged to be married to American fiance Don Damond, was killed after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault taking place in the alley behind her house. Noor, who allegedly “got spooked” when the victim approached the squad car, shot Damand once in the abdomen.
Noor, who was sacked from the police force following the tragic incident, is said to have fired at Damand through the driver’s side window from his position in the passenger seat, as she approached the cop car which was being driven by Noor’s partner Officer Matthew Harrity.
However, in the most recent development, Noor’s lawyers are now claiming that recent comments made by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman “have undermined Officer Noor’s fundamental right to a fair trial” and a hearing for the motions has been scheduled for September 27.
“The Hennepin County Attorney’s statements in this case are irresponsible, inexcusable and rise to a level of professional misconduct that cheats citizens out of a fair trial,” they reportedly wrote in their filings. “His comments are not merely racially and culturally insensitive – they are full of animosity. They mock due process. They deny due process.”
Noor’s lawyers have also argued that the third-degree murder charge does not meet the “depraved mind” standard under Minnesota law. Prosecutors allege that Noor acted recklessly and was not justified in using deadly force, while the defence insists Noor’s actions “were the product of a split second reaction.”
“Officer Noor’s actions to defend his partner and himself, in the context of that night, are not evidence of the depraved mind envisioned by the courts for the last hundred years,” the defence filings apparently say.
Noor’s partner Officer Matthew Harrity told investigators that the officers were startled by a noise outside their police car and that Noor, who was in the passenger seat, shot across him to hit Damond as she stood by the driver’s window. Neither officer had their body camera turned on.
When the charges were revealed earlier this year, the county attorney’s office released more information gathered during its investigation of the killing, including that Damond suffered a single gun shot wound to her abdomen and that she immediately put her hands on the wound and said “I’m dead” or “I’m dying”.
Once Harrity saw that Damond had no weapon in her hand, he got out of the police car, told Noor to reholster his gun and turn his body camera on. Paramedics were called but Damond died at the scene.