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The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the third-degree murder conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an Australian woman in 2017, saying the charge doesn’t fit the circumstances in the case.

Mohamed Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual U.S.-Australian citizen who called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her home. He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years on the murder count but was not sentenced for manslaughter.

The ruling means his murder conviction is overturned and the case will now go back to the district court, where he will be sentenced on the manslaughter count. He has already served more than 28 months of his murder sentence. If sentenced to the presumptive four years for manslaughter, he could be eligible for supervised release around the end of this year.

Caitlinrose Fisher, one of the attorneys who worked on Noor’s appeal, said she’s grateful that the Minnesota Supreme Court clarified what constitutes third-degree murder, and she hopes that will lead to greater equity and consistency in charging decisions.

“We’ve said from the beginning that this was a tragedy but it wasn’t a murder, and now the Supreme Court agrees and recognizes that,” she said.

Messages left Wednesday with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, were not immediately returned.

The ruling could give former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin grounds to contest his own third-degree murder conviction in George Floyd’s death in May 2020. But that wouldn’t have much impact on Chauvin since he was also convicted of the more serious count of second-degree murder and is serving 22 1/2 years. Experts say it’s unlikely Chauvin would be successful in appealing his second-degree murder conviction.

The ruling in Noor’s case was also closely watched for its possible impact on three other former Minneapolis officers awaiting trial in Floyd’s death. Prosecutors had wanted to add charges of aiding and abetting third-degree murder against them, but that’s unlikely to happen now. The trio are due to go on trial in March on charges of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.


A Maine nursing home on Deer Isle will close at the end of October, citing both the coronavirus pandemic and the recent struggle to find qualified workers.

At one point, Island Nursing Home dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak that lasted about six weeks and resulted in 100 cases and 14 resident deaths, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I don’t have any idea what we’re going to do,” Jess Maurer, executive director of Maine Council on Aging, told News Center Maine.

A statement written by the Island Nursing Home board of directors said there’s simply not enough qualified workers.

“We have spent months exhausting every staffing resource at our disposal and beginning this fall, we will no longer be able to meet our minimum staffing requirements,” the statement said.

Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss is joining with other Democratic members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, to push for the manufacturing, production, and distribution of vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.

The group launched the COVID-19 Global Vaccination Caucus, which they say will advocate for the one solution that has proven to work and that a majority of Americans and scientists agree is crucial to ending the pandemic: vaccines.

“The world needs America to lead. The fight against COVID-19 is a transnational challenge that calls for vision and boldness,” Auchincloss, who represents the state’s 4th Congressional District, said Friday in a written statement. “The United States can reclaim moral leadership with vaccine diplomacy.”

Auchincloss said the goal is to encourage a U.S.-led program to increase the vaccinated populations of poor countries to protect those populations but also to block the spread of dangerous COVID-19 variants to the United States.

Other members of the caucus include representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin.


Maine’s supreme court has upheld a 40-year prison sentence imposed on a man who killed his roommate in Old Orchard Beach.

Dustan Bentley pleaded guilty to murder in the death of 65-year-old William Popplewell, who was beaten, stabbed and strangled with a ligature.

Police arrested Bentley as he was attempting to use a ratchet and strap to pull the body into the trunk of his car, which was lined with a shower curtain. An autopsy revealed the victim suffered multiple broken bones and had been stabbed up to 30 times.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled that there was nothing in the record to indicate that the judge made a mistake.

“At no point did the court depart from sentencing principles or abuse its discretion in coming to or issuing its sentence,” the court said.

Bentley and Popplewell met at a Portland homeless shelter, and Bentley later moved into Popplewell’s apartment in Old Orchard Beach in December 2018. Popplewell was killed in March 2019.


Education officials are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging West Virginia’s new law that bans transgender athletes from competing in female sports in middle schools, high schools and colleges.

Education and athletic officials said in court documents filed last week that they can’t be held liable for the law, which they didn’t request and largely won’t be responsible for enforcing, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union and its West Virginia chapter filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of an 11-year-old transgender girl who had hoped to compete in cross country in middle school in Harrison County. The girl is seeking an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.

The ban is set to take effect Thursday and will require the state Board of Education to establish rules to determine the means by which local athletic officials can enforce the law.

Attorneys for the West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission argued that they can’t be held responsible for the law because they aren’t responsible for enforcing it.

Attorneys for Harrison County Schools said the district “was not responsible for and did not pass” the transgender athlete ban and has not caused harm to the girl.

“(The law) was not created by the County Board, and it is not under the County Board’s control,” the response said.

The U.S. Justice Department intervened in the case last month, saying the ban was a violation of federal law.


Flexing its new strength, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Thursday cut back on a landmark voting rights law in a decision likely to help Republican states fight challenges to voting restrictions they’ve put in place following last year’s elections.

The court’s 6-3 ruling upheld voting limits in Arizona that a lower court had found discriminatory under the federal Voting Rights Act. It was the high court’s second major decision in eight years that civil rights groups and liberal dissenting justices say weakened the Civil Rights-era law that was intended to eradicate discrimination in voting.

The decision fueled new calls from Democrats to pass federal legislation, blocked by Senate Republicans, that would counter the new state laws. Some lawmakers and liberal groups also favor Supreme Court changes that include expanding the nine-justice bench.

“The court’s decision, harmful as it is, does not limit Congress’ ability to repair the damage done today: it puts the burden back on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Republicans argue that the state restrictions are simply efforts to fight potential voting fraud and ensure election integrity.

Biden’s Justice Department had actually taken the position that the Arizona measures did not violate the Voting Rights Act, but favored a narrower ruling than the one handed down Thursday.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation last year to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg entrenched the right’s dominance on a court that now has three appointees of former President Donald Trump.

In an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the court reversed an appellate ruling in deciding that Arizona’s regulations on who can return early ballots for another person and on refusing to count ballots cast in the wrong precinct are not racially discriminatory.

The federal appeals court in San Francisco had held that the measures disproportionately affected Black, Hispanic and Native American voters in violation of a part of the Voting Rights Act known as Section 2.

Alito wrote for the conservative majority that the state’s interest in the integrity of elections justified the measures and that voters faced “modest burdens” at most.

The court rejected the idea that showing a state law disproportionately affects minority voters is enough to prove a violation of law.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the court was weakening the federal voting rights law for the second time in eight years.


He plotted to steal up to $1.5 million in union dues, and the money he diverted was spent on golf clubs, vacation homes, booze and lavish meals, fostering a culture of corruption within the United Auto Workers union.

Now former UAW president Gary Jones will have to spend 28 months in a federal prison and repay thousands of dollars for his crimes.

Jones, 64, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Paul Borman in Detroit after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy last year. Borman ordered that Jones surrender for his term in 90 days and recommended a low-security federal prison in Seagoville, Texas, so he would be close to his wife who now lives near Dallas.

Before sentencing, Jones choked up in the courtroom as he apologized to his family and union members for his actions. “I failed them. I failed the UAW that elected me as president,” he told Borman. “All I can say is I’m sorry I let them down, I let my family down.”

Federal sentencing guidelines called for Jones to get 46 to 57 months in prison due to his high position in the union. But prosecutors asked for 28 months because Jones accepted responsibility and cooperated as the government went after his cohorts in a wide-ranging probe of union corruption.


A convicted Nevada mass murderer is mounting a range of legal challenges to a bid to schedule his execution in early June, including questioning whether the district attorney in Las Vegas really wants the lethal injection carried out at a decommissioned prison in Carson City.

Prosecutor Alexander Chen on Friday said that’s a mistake that will be corrected in court filings next week.

Attorneys for Zane Michael Floyd filed new documents this week asking a state court judge to halt the process at least long enough to determine if the state’s lethal injection procedure would be unconstitutionally cruel and inhumane, and to force prisons officials to show they have the three drugs they would use.

“We would add to that the opportunity to present clemency on behalf of our client,” Floyd’s attorney, Brad Levenson, said in an email. “We are indeed litigating in state and federal court on many serious issues.”

District Attorney Steve Wolfson didn’t immediately respond to messages about documents that Levenson filed Wednesday.

One seeks a stay of execution. The other opposes Wolfson’s request for Clark County District Judge Michael Villani to issue a warrant to set Floyd’s execution date the week beginning June 7.

The prosecutor’s April 15 application for a death warrant specifies that the execution should be “within the limits of the State Prison, located at or near Carson City.”

Villani has scheduled court hearings on May 14. Floyd, 45, was sentenced in 2000 to die for killing four people with a shotgun and badly wounding a fifth in a Las Vegas supermarket in 1999.

He is one of 65 inmates housed on death row at Ely State Prison, a facility 250 miles (402 kilometers) north of Las Vegas and some 260 miles (418 kilometers) east of Carson City where a new lethal injection chamber was built in 2016 at a cost of about $860,000. It has never been used.

Floyd’s attorneys want a judge to force state Department of Corrections officials to say if they’ve changed a procedure posted in July 2018 for a lethal injection that was later called off; to prove they have the drugs they would use; and to demonstrate that witnesses would not be exposed to COVID-19.

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