MN Supreme Court tosses cop’s murder conviction, could open door to Chauvin’s conviction being tossed

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SAINT PAUL, MN – Earlier in September, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the third-degree murder conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor, citing that prosecutors lacked the evidence for said charge in Noor’s 2019 conviction.

However, the former officer is still behind bars due to his second-degree manslaughter conviction connected to the original 2017 incident.

Back in April of 2019, Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter for the July 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. On the evening of July 15th of 2017, Damond had called 911 to report that she heard the sounds of either a woman having sex or possibly being raped in the Fulton neighborhood.

Officer Noor, along with his partner Officer Matthew Harrity, responded to the area of the call and drove around in their cruiser with the lights off – but couldn’t locate any evidence of a possible woman in danger or any suspects.

As the two officers were about to drive off, Damond had approached the driver’s side window of the cruiser at the same time that both of the officers heard a loud noise that had startled the both of them. Officer Harrity unholstered his sidearm but kept it facing down – whereas Officer Noor shot Damond in the abdomen.

Unfortunately, Damond passed away roughly 20 minutes after the shooting.

After being charged and later convicted of third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter in April of 2019, as the jury found that simply being startled by a noise is not grounds for deadly force against someone nearby by happenstance, Noor was sentenced in June of 2019 to 12-and-a-half years in prison.

Yet, on September 15th, the Minnesota Supreme Court found that the conviction of third-degree murder was unjust – citing that there was no evidence presented that fit the parameters of what legally defines third-degree murder.

The statute relevant to third-degree murder has always been used in cases where the defendant is accused of presenting a danger to multiple people – and not targeting a specific person – while acting with “depraved mind, without regard for human life,” according to the state supreme court.

Prosecutors had argued that Noor’s conduct during the 2017 incident did fit the description of third-degree murder, because he could’ve hurt or killed his partner or a nearby bicyclist riding by during the time of the shooting.

However, according to the opinion by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, that argument made by the prosecution was not convincing and ruled that it was clear that Noor was only targeting Damond during the shooting:

“In sum, our precedent confirms that Noor is correct in arguing that a person does not commit depraved-mind murder when the person’s actions are directed at a particular victim.”

“Noor’s conduct is especially troubling given the trust that citizens should be able to place in our peace officers. But the tragic circumstances of this case do not change the fact that Noor’s conduct was directed with particularity toward Ruszczyk.”

Hennepin County Attorney Michael O. Freeman stated that prosecutors were “disappointed” by the high court’s ruling but added that they “respect and acknowledge that the Minnesota Supreme Court is the final arbiter in this matter.”

This of course does not mean that Noor will be released from prison anytime soon, as he still holds the conviction of second-degree manslaughter.

Noor will have to be resentenced for solely the second-degree manslaughter conviction, which has some speculating that if Noor is given the presumptive sentence of 48 months for his resentencing then he could walk out of prison as early as late-2021 due to Minnesota prisoners serving 2/3 of their sentences along with his time served since April of 2019.

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Officer charged in connection with fatal shooting of man who fought with cops acquitted of all charges

(Originally published September 13th, 2021)

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – One of two Newport News Police officers charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a 43-year-old man in 2019 was acquitted of all charges at trial earlier in September.

The officer acquitted was only charged primarily for his use of a taser during a struggle with a suspect, but his superior who fired the fatal round during the 2019 is slated to stand trial later this year for second-degree murder.

On September 9th, former Newport News Police Officer Dwight Pitterson was found not guilty of malicious wounding, unlawful wounding, assault and battery and trespassing regarding the 2019 fatal shooting of Henry Kistler Berry III.

The original incident occurred on December 27th, 2019, after Barry had reportedly been calling 911 throughout the day asking about conducting some sort of welfare check on his 9-year-old son whom he apparently was confused about a custodial dispute with the child’s mother.

Four officers wound up responding to Berry’s home with the intent to place him under arrest for a misdemeanor charge of abusing 911, including Officer Pitterson and Sgt. Albin Pearson – the officer who would wind up fatally shooting Barry after a struggle.

Bodycam footage that was played during the trial showed the officers knocking on Berry’s door, later asking him to step outside when he answered and Berry responding with, “I’d rather stand right here.”

Sgt. Pearson, the senior officer present on the call, told Barry:

“You need to come out and talk with us. You need to hang up the phone with 911.”

Berry tries closing the door, but the officers prevented him from doing so and entered the residence. Sgt. Pearson got hands-on with Berry as he retreated to his living room, latching onto the suspect with the both of them reportedly colliding against one of the walls and falling to the ground.

The three other officers, Pitterson included, were instructing Berry to stop resisting. The suspect had instead clenched his body, which made it difficult to cuff him up. Officer Pitterson deployed his taser once during the fracas with Berry in an effort to get him under control.

It was this act that led to the charges of malicious wounding, unlawful wounding, and assault and battery – with the trespassing charge being added by prosecutors due to the officers having no warrant to enter Berry’s home that evening.

Following the deploying of the taser, authorities say that Berry had gotten control of the taser, which led to Sgt. Pearson fatally shooting the suspect in the back.

Pitterson’s attorney, Artisha Todd Gregg, brought forth a winning defense for the former officer in the case, highlighting that everything her client did that evening under the circumstances was lawful and was also following the lead of the superior officer present – Sgt. Pearson.

Gregg pointed out that “at no time did Mr. Berry comply,” during the incident and that her client “did everything he was told to do and everything he was taught through training.”

She also noted that Pitterson performed first aid on Berry after the shooting.

Gregg acknowledged that it was “a travesty that Mr. Berry is dead,” but reminded the jury that “Officer Pitterson is a subordinate of Sgt. Pearson,” and that “unfortunately, Sgt. Pearson decided to use deadly force.”

When the jury returned a verdict of not guilty after three hours of deliberating, Prosecutor Brandon Wrobleski said he respected the jury’s decision, but stands by the arguments raised during the trial:

“And we maintained that argument. They had no search warrant; they had no arrest warrant. Again, we do respect the jury’s verdict.”

Former Sgt. Pearson is slated to begin his trial sometime later this year.

As the case against Pitterson only focused on his actions taken during the December 2019 incident, it’s difficult to tell at this point whether his acquittal will present a strong beneficial element to the second-degree murder charge Pearson is facing.

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Officer already charged with one murder gets second murder indictment for shooting would-be killer

(Originally published September 1st, 2021)

AUSTIN, TX – Two Austin Police officers were both indicted for murder earlier in August.

The charges stem from a July 2019 fatal shooting of a man reportedly experiencing a mental health crisis who refused to drop a knife that he was holding to his own throat earlier during the incident.

One of the two officers indicted in the July 2019 shooting incident was also indicted for murder back in March for an April 2020 fatal shooting of a suspect.

On August 26th, a Travis County grand jury charged 29-year-old Officer Christopher Taylor and 28-year-old Officer Karl Krycia with murder and deadly conduct regarding the fatal shooting of 46-year-old Dr. Mauris DeSilva.

According to custodial death report drafted regarding the incident, Austin Police responded to an apartment building along the 300 Bowie Street on July 31st, 2019, after several 911 calls came in regarding a man who was seen holding a knife and bringing it to his own throat.

The report also noted that once officers arrived on the scene, they were informed by employees at the apartment building that DeSilva was inside the building near where the fitness center was.

Officers took an elevator to where the fitness center was, and upon the elevator doors opening, the officers reportedly encountered DeSilva as he was still armed with a knife. The three officers on the scene reportedly issued commands for DeSilva to drop the knife, which were ignored, and DeSilva allegedly walked toward the officers with the knife still in his right hand.

Two of the officers, Krycia and Taylor, fired their service weapons at DeSilva, while the third unidentified officer reportedly fired his taser at the subject. DeSilva later died that evening as a result of the sustained gunshot wounds.

Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday finds the indictments issued in this shooting to be a “political” prosecution coming from District Attorney Jose Garza:

“This is another political prosecuting by DA Garza and it’s not going to be tolerated. Before he ever saw the evidence or knew all the facts of the investigation, he ran a campaign on prosecuting Chris Taylor and he’s done that.”

DA Garza was indeed elected to his role after both of the fatal shootings, being elected in Travis County back in November of 2020. And Casaday’s allegations that DA Garza campaigned on prosecuting police officers is indeed true, as Garza said in June of 2020 that not enough police officers were being charged with crimes:

“In the last four years, not one officer has been charged with a crime for killing a member of our community, and not one officer has been convicted of a crime for any misconduct.”

Ken Ervin, one of the attorneys representing Officer Taylor in the case also threw shade at DA Garza for his seemingly overzealousness to prosecute police officers for what appears to be a lawful shooting:

“The officers waited until he was 3-4 feet away with the knife, well within striking range, before they had to defend themselves using lethal force.”

“Perhaps Mr. Garza would prefer they go ahead and just get stabbed first prior to using any sort of force to defend themselves.”

Doug O’Connell, another one of Officer Taylor’s attorneys, had the following to say about the charges:

“There’s never been a more clear cut, legally justified officer-involved shooting in Travis County history.”

According to Officer Taylor’s legal team, the DA’s office did not ask a use-of-force expert who deemed the 2019 shooting to be justified to testify before the grand jury. A statement from DA Garza’s office alleged that the “allegations that DA Garza, or anyone acting in his capacity, would not let Dr. Williams testify are false.”

O’Connell says that what DA Garza is doing here isn’t about seeking justice, it’s about doing whatever he can to jail police officers:

“It’s the same pattern, it’s the same thing that we’ve seen before. It just shows this is not about justice, it is not about doing the right thing, [or] fulfilling ethical responsibilities, it is about indicting police officers at any cost.”

Bail for both of the defendants was set at $100,000 and the officers were told by the court that they needed to surrender all of their firearms – to include their service weapons. 

Conditions of bail for the officers will also be prohibited from performing any work with either a law enforcement or security company in a capacity that requires them to possess a gun.

Officer Krycia has been placed on paid administrative duty, whereas Officer Taylor remains on leave without pay in connection with the March indictment.

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