Justine Damond was killed after she rang police for help in July, 2017. Picture: Supplied
Justine Damond was killed after she rang police for help in July, 2017. Picture: Supplied

Verdict reached in Justine shooting case

A US jury has found Mohamed Noor guilty of murder and manslaughter over the shooting death of Australian woman Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

Noor was found guilty of third degree murder and second degree manslaughter but was cleared of the more serious charge of second degree murder, which includes "intent to kill".

The former cop will be sentenced on June 7 and could face up to 25 years in prison.

Justine's partner Don Damond was visibly distressed when the verdict was read out. He was seen with his head down wiping away tears with his handkerchief.

A charge of third degree murder means Noor committed an eminently dangerous act that showed a "a depraved mind" and caused Ms Damond's death.

The charges of second degree manslaughter means the jury found Noor guilty of culpable gross negligence, causing death.

Justine Damond Ruszczyk and her fiance Don Damond lived together for two years before her death. Picture: Supplied
Justine Damond Ruszczyk and her fiance Don Damond lived together for two years before her death. Picture: Supplied


Ms Damond's family were said to have been "satisfied" with the verdict. But speaking after the verdict, Justine's father John Ruszczyk was damning of the Minneapolis police.

"We would like to note that we believe the conviction was reached despite the active resistance of a number of Minneapolis officers, including the head of their union, and either active resistance or gross incompetence of the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) - particularly at the beginning of the investigation," Mr Ruszczyk said.

Meantime, protestors expressed their opposition to the verdict outside court, with many saying that Noor was punished because he was a black man who killed a white woman.

Justine's fiance Don Damond was similarly critical.

"Ironically the Minneapolis Police Department emblem on the squad door reads 'to protect with courage and to serve with compassion,'" Mr Damond said.

"Where were these values that night? ... That night there was a tragic lapse of care and complete disregard for the sanctity of life. The evidence in this case clearly showed an egregious failure of the Minneapolis Police Department."

 

Prosecutor Amy Sweasy described Justine Damond’s death as “tragedy compounded on top of tragedy.” Picture: AP
Prosecutor Amy Sweasy described Justine Damond’s death as “tragedy compounded on top of tragedy.” Picture: AP


'TRAGEDY ON TOP OF TRAGEDY'


Former police officer Noor, 33, shot Ms Damond after she called police to help a woman she believed she could hear screaming behind her south Minneapolis home on July 15, 2017.

Ms Damond, 40, a former vet who was working as a life-coach, had been planning to marry her American fiance, Don, just weeks later.

Ms Damond's Australian family, including her father Mr Ruszczyk, stepmother Maryan Heffernan, brother Jason, sister-in-law Katarina and her fiance Don were in court every day of Noor's trial, which has drawn national and international media attention to the midwestern city.

The 12-person jury of ten men and two women retired on Monday. They had been sequestered and asked to reach a unanimous verdict on all three counts.

Judge Kathryn Quaintance concluded the trial by expressing her sympathies to the families of Noor and Ms Damond, who sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the front row of the public gallery in a cramped courtroom for every day of sometimes graphic evidence and testimony.

"This process must have been just excruciating in many ways," she said.

In her closing arguments, prosecutor Amy Sweasy described Ms Damond's death as "tragedy compounded on top of tragedy."

Noor's defence argued that he and his partner feared they were being ambushed by Ms Damond, who was barefoot and in pyjamas. They said that when she raised her arm as she approached their car, they believed she was possibly armed.

Noor's defence lawyer Thomas Plunkett said his client was following his training, and that he was devastated that he had killed an innocent woman and lost his job as a police officer.

Describing Somali-born Noor, a 33-year-old father-of-one, as "a kid that came here from a far away place, grateful to the community for his family's opportunities", he said Noor "didn't wake up in the morning and say 'I want to kill someone'."

"Mr Noor acted to stop a threat," Mr Plunkett said in his closing arguments.

But Ms Sweasy argued: "He knew exactly what he was doing. He pulled his gun out … he aimed and he killed her.

"This was intentional murder."

The jury was tasked with determining the level of intent and recklessness Noor displayed in firing his Glock service revolver past the chest of his partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, who was driving their car, at Ms Damond. Their options ranged from not guilty to guilty of one or any of the charges.

As a police officer, Noor was authorised to use deadly force if there was an apparent threat of grievous harm or death, and the jury was to decide whether his defence successfully argued that the "totality of circumstances", which included Noor seeing Ms Damond raise her arm as she approached his squad car, coupled with a loud noise variously described as a thump or slap, met this benchmark.