Defense attorneys fight to overturn Mohamed Noor conviction

The attorney for Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with fatally shooting Justine Damond in 2017, met with judges Wednesday to discuss his appeal of Noor's Third Degree Murder charge.

Defense attorney Tom Plunkett responded to questions from a three-judge appeals panel about the deadly police shooting that generated headlines across the globe. Noor was convicted on charges of Third Degree Murder and 2nd Degree Manslaughter in the July 2017 shooting death of Australian native Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

Damond had called 911 to report a possible night-time assault in her quiet neighborhood when she came upon Noor’s squad in the alley behind her home.

The former officer testified that in that moment, he feared an ambush at the driver’s side window and he fired across his partner, killing the 40-year-old woman.

“If this is an ambush, both officers are dead,” Plunkett said.

Noor was subsequently sentenced to more than 12 years behind bars. 

Plunkett is arguing the convictions should be tossed - specifically the Third Degree Murder charge because of the way the statute is written: “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind.”

But, attorneys for the state counter that is exactly what happened.

“He was trained to use his gun. He was trained to assess the danger in a particular circumstance. He was startled and he reacted,” said Hennepin County Assistant Attorney Jean Burdorf.

Criminal defense attorney Marsh Halberg, who isn’t directly involved in the case, said he watched Wednesday’s virtual oral arguments.

“This ‘depraved’ language is so confusing, what that involves,” he said. “In this case, the argument is basically in that moment he took out the gun and shot her, that was a depraved mind in that moment, and that’s the way trying to shoehorn it into the conviction.”

The court now gets 90 days to issue a ruling.