Derek Chauvin, the disgraced Minneapolis cop convicted of murdering George Floyd, may have one of his convictions overturned after another officer from the same department had a homicide conviction scrapped last month.
Former Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor, 36, was initially convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the 2017 shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed, dual U.S.-Australian citizen and yoga teacher who was engaged to be married, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2019.
She was shot dead after running up to Noor after calling 911 to report what she feared was a rape happening nearby, with the cop later convicted of her killing.
However, that sentence was tossed in September of this year, after Noor’s lawyers argued that the third-degree murder charge did not fit the then officer’s crime, citing a technicality concerning the specific wording of Noor’s murder charge.
Legal experts now fear that precedent could be used to challenge Chauvin’s April 2021 conviction for the third-degree murder of Floyd in May 2020. He was also convicted of unintentional second-degree murder, with legal experts saying it is unlikely both can stand, and that the murder three charge could be dropped.
Minneapolis cops Derek Chauvin, 45, and Mohammed Noor, 36, were both convicted of murder after killing George Floyd and Justine Ruszczyk Damond, respectively, while on duty. Namond’s third-degree murder conviction, however, was tossed last month, leading experts to believe that the same may happen for Chauvin
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office initially charged Noor with third-degree murder for committing a dangerous act and exhibiting ‘a depraved mind.’
But Noor’s legal team attested that the officer was merely spooked when he gunned down Damond, 40, who had called the officers to her Minneapolis home to report a possible rape, and was shot after running up to Noor’s and his partner’s squad car.
The legal maneuver worked, and Noor’s third-degree murder charge was tossed – leaving Noor with just the manslaughter conviction.
The ex-cop was then resentenced to just five years in prison earlier this month, as opposed to the aforementioned 12.
Noor also already served 29 months of his sentence over the course of his trial, making him eligible for early release as soon as June 2022.
The overturned conviction now has experts wondering what could happen to Noor’s counterpart Chauvin, the Minneapolis cop charged with killing Floyd, an unarmed black man, in May 2020 during a routine arrest.
George Floyd and Justine Ruszczyk Damond were both killed by Minneapolis police officers while they were on duty. The similarities in both of their cases lead experts to believe that the rulings in one may set a legal precedence for the other
‘Chauvin will likely have his decision reversed because it is legally incompatible to say that someone is guilty of intentionally doing something and at the same time they’re guilty of unintentionally doing something,’ criminal defense attorney Andrew Wilson told VICE News days after Noor’s murder charge was tossed.
Wilson was referring to Chauvin being convicted of both second-degree unintentional murder, and third degree murder.
Video footage of the 2020 incident showed Chauvin, 45, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while handcuffed, leading to the 46-year-old man’s death.
The veteran officer was subsequently sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in maximum security state prison in June of 2021, after being convicted in April for his role in Floyd’s highly publicized death.
Now, Chauvin, a white man, is looking to appeal this conviction – but Wilson says that while Chauvin might obtain a technical victory, he thinks it’s unlikely that the killer cop will have his sentence reduced.
‘I don’t think it’s going to result in a reduction of his sentence,’ Wilson theorized to VICE, adding, ‘But I do think it poses real problems for that conviction to stand against him.’
‘So on appeal, they might get a reversal of that conviction.’
Chauvin was seen in video footage from Memorial Day 2020 kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while he cried out that he couldn’t breathe
The conviction Wilson is referring to is Chauvin’s third-degree murder charge, which, if following the precedent set by Noor’s case, could be overturned, according to the attorney,
However, Chauvin was also convicted of second-degree murder in Floyd’s death – which won’t be so easily reversed.
Nonetheless, the overturning of Noor’s murder charge and his subsequent resentencing opens the door for other, similar cases to also be reexamined, with their rulings potentially being overturned, experts say.
Legal experts speaking to The Associated Press last week agreed with Wilson’s analysis that the state Supreme Court’s about-face concerning Noor’s third-degree murder conviction could mean that Chauvin’s third-degree murder conviction could also be tossed out.
But Minneapolis defense attorney Ryan Pacyga also reiterated Wilson’s hypothesis that such a development will not have any real impact on Chauvin’s situation, due to the second-degree murder charge – unless it was somehow overturned on appeal.
Pacyga, however, told The AP that the likelihood of such an event is slim to none.
Chauvin also was convicted of second-degree manslaughter.
He is currently seeking to appeal his murder convictions, but he is also facing additional, federal charges in Floyd’s death, after a grand jury indicted him and three of his fellow officers on civil rights-related offenses.
The federal filings came two weeks after Chauvin was found guilty of all three of the state’s charges against him.
If sentenced federally, Chauvin would first serve his state sentence and subsequently be moved to a federal prison.
However, the trial is not expected to start until sometime next year.
Also still to come are the state and federal trials of the other three officers involved, who are charged with aiding and abetting in Chauvin’s murder and manslaughter of Floyd.
Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thaowill were originally slated to face state trial in August, but the trial was pushed back to March of next year, to allow the publicity over Chauvin’s conviction to cool off.
The three former officer’s federal trials, where they, like Chauvin, will face charges that they violated Floyd’s civil rights during his May 25 arrest, will follow at some point after.