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'Depraved mind' not at play in Noor case, defense argues

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Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor
Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor arrives at the Hennepin County Government Center with his attorneys on April 30, 2019.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Attorneys for former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor are asking a judge to acquit him of murder and manslaughter charges, arguing that there wasn't enough evidence to sustain the convictions.

A jury found Noor guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter last month in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, who had called 911 because she thought she heard someone being assaulted in the alley behind her home.

Noor's attorneys argue in Tuesday's court filing that third-degree murder wasn't appropriate because the charge, which is described in statute as exhibiting a "depraved mind," was not appropriate. They cite other Minnesota cases, such as random shooting sprees or drivers speeding down the wrong way on a street, which they argue better fit the requirements of the charge.

"Mr. Noor reacted to dark alley in the middle of the night, thump on the squad, voice, body appearing at the driver's side window, the startled announcement of fear by officer Harrity as he reached for his firearm, and his observation that that the person in the window was raising their right arm," the defense's filing reads. "Mr. Noor's actions to defend his partner and himself, in the context of that night, are not evidence of the depraved mind envisioned by Minnesota courts for the last hundred years."

They also asked the judge to acquit Noor of second-degree manslaughter, which requires that a person's negligence created an unreasonable risk to cause death or great bodily harm.

"His actions were an attempt to minimize the danger he and officer [Matthew] Harrity believed was real at that moment," according to the defense's motion. "And after the fact, his shock and actions reveal a man with a heavy conscience, not a man acting in a conscious disregard for the risk he was creating."

The prosecution has not yet filed a response to the defense's motion to acquit.

Judge Kathryn Quaintance rejected a request in September by Noor's defense team to dismiss charges against him for lack of probable cause.

Noor's sentencing is scheduled for June 7. He could appeal his conviction after he's sentenced.