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2021 Attorneys of the Year: Mohamed Noor appellate team

Dan Heilman//February 18, 2022//

Mohamed Noor Appellate Team

From left: Aaron Morrison of Wold Morrison Law; Thomas Plunkett of the Law office of Thomas Plunkett; Caitlinrose Fisher and Matt Forsgren of Forsgren Fisher. Inset is Peter Wold of Wold Morrison Law. Fisher is a Circle of Excellence honoree.

2021 Attorneys of the Year: Mohamed Noor appellate team

Dan Heilman//February 18, 2022//

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The case of convicted former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor ended up turning on a key factor: What constitutes a depraved mind?

Legally, it’s the mental state for third-degree murder. Noor was convicted of third-degree murder following a shooting in south Minneapolis. Noor appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, but the Minnesota Supreme Court granted review.

“The earlier decision didn’t match Supreme Court precedent or depraved-mind murder,” says attorney Caitlinrose Fisher. “What we saw in the case was an unsupported expansion of third-degree murder that risks eliminating any line between murder and manslaughter. It gave incredible power to prosecutors and led to a risk of inequitable charging.”

The high court clarified that the mental state for a depraved mind cannot exist when the defendant’s conduct is directed with particularity at the person who is killed. The Noor decision,  his defense team says, will provide important guidance to defense lawyers and prosecutors in future criminal cases.

“There’s nothing unique about the Noor case, especially when you look at the potential for charging inequities,” says Thomas Plunkett, who practices with Fisher at Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver. “It goes deeper than Noor, and it goes deeper than police. It’s about fundamental fairness in preventing minorities from being whipsawed by judging decisions and subsequent plea negotiations.”

Fisher says that since the Supreme Court decision, she has seen some county attorneys voluntarily suspending third-degree murder charges.

Peter B. Wold of Wold Morrison Law was also part of the appeal team.

“There was a lot of focus on the race and gender of the victim, the location of the crime,” Fisher says. “The way the state was using the charging statute was basically as manslaughter-plus, eliminating any meaningful line between manslaughter and murder — even though they’re drastically different crimes with much different sentencing exposures.”

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2021 here.

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