Justine Damond Ruszczyk and her American fiance Don. Picture: Supplied
Justine Damond Ruszczyk and her American fiance Don. Picture: Supplied

Justine’s family ‘may get record payout’

KILLER cop Mohamed Noor's conviction for murdering Australian life coach Justine Ruszczyk Damond yesterday made history as her family prepared for a second landmark legal fight against her adopted city.

The former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of the 40-year-old's murder - the first time such a charge was proved against an on-duty police officer in the state of Minnesota.

News Corp Australia has learned a team of lawyers supporting her family is preparing the next steps in their pursuit of a lawsuit worth at least $US50 million ($A70 million).

Such a payout, plus uncapped punitive damages, would dwarf any amounts the city has paid for previous police shooting victims.

The family of Justine Damond is reportedly preparing a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis over her death. Picture: AP
The family of Justine Damond is reportedly preparing a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis over her death. Picture: AP

"We are very confident of a record payout," a legal source said last night.

After a month-long trial Noor, 33, was yesterday found guilty of third degree murder, which carries a maximum 25 year sentence.

He was acquitted of second degree murder, meaning the jury found he acted without an intention to kill or premeditation.

Prosecutors proved to the jury of 10 men and two women that he committed an eminently dangerous and reckless act that showed "a depraved mind" and caused the Sydney expat's death.

After a day of jury deliberations Noor, 33, was also found guilty of second degree manslaughter, meaning he behaved with culpable gross negligence, causing death.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who prosecuted Noor, said he expected a sentence of 150 months (12.5 years) for murder.

He also expected a 48 month (four year) jail term for manslaughter but that he believed the prison terms to be served concurrently.

Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s family did not miss a day of the trial. Picture: AP
Justine Ruszczyk Damond’s family did not miss a day of the trial. Picture: AP

Ms Damond's Sydney-based father John Ruszczyk - who had not missed a moment of the often harrowing evidence at the murder trial of his only daughter's killer - criticised authorities for their investigative failings.

Speaking at the courthouse after the verdict, he was especially critical of police and the state agency, the Bureau of Criminal apprehension, which investigated the shooting.

Mr Ruszczyk said she was "was killed by a police officer, an agent of the state" and that he was "satisfied" with the verdict.

"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, particularly at the beginning of the investigation," he said.

 

Mohamed Noor was found guilty of the third degree murder of Australian woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Picture: AP
Mohamed Noor was found guilty of the third degree murder of Australian woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Picture: AP

Noor was remanded in custody after the verdict ahead of sentencing next month.

Mr Freeman said Noor was one of a handful of American officers to be successfully prosecuted.

Over the past 12 years, more than 12,000 police shootings had led to just 95 officers being charged and fewer than half convicted, he said.

Mr Freeman apologised to Ms Damond's family for her death.

"I want the family to know how sorry we are about what occurred," he said, as he praised the prosecutors who led the case against Noor.

"This is a tragic shooting that should not have happened," he said.

"We wanted justice and we felt justice was that he (Noor) needed to go to prison for the crime he committed."

The case divided Minneapolis with some suggesting the Australian’s case was “treated differently” because she was white. Picture: AP
The case divided Minneapolis with some suggesting the Australian’s case was “treated differently” because she was white. Picture: AP

Ms Damond's Australian family launched the civil action against the city of Minneapolis in July last year but it had been on hold pending Noor's murder trial outcome.

Court documents name Noor and his partner Officer Mathew Harrity as co-conspirators, alleging they deliberately tried to obscure the circumstances of the shooting in July 2017.

The lawsuit also names the city's current and former police chiefs.

After launching the case last year, Mr Ruszczyk criticised systemic problems in the city's police department, saying he wanted reform "to the extent necessary to stop such senseless acts from happening again and again".

 

Don Damond remembered his late fiance at a press conference in Minneapolis. Picture: Chris Juhn for News Corp Australia
Don Damond remembered his late fiance at a press conference in Minneapolis. Picture: Chris Juhn for News Corp Australia

 

Yesterday Mr Freeman conceded the BCA and Minneapolis police made early errors in the investigation but he said after prosecutors raised concerns, a new investigatory team did an "exemplary" job.

Protesters yesterday gathered at the courthouse expressing their displeasure at the verdict amid claims Noor was punished because he was a black man who killed a white woman.

Despite being sacked when was charged with murder, Noor's defence was paid for by the city's police union, which is local procedure.

 

Rene Norton, a friend and neighbour of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, wipes away tears after leaving flowers on her memorial near the alley where she was killed. Picture: AP
Rene Norton, a friend and neighbour of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, wipes away tears after leaving flowers on her memorial near the alley where she was killed. Picture: AP

"From the very onset this was an extremely unfortunate situation for all involved. The tragic loss of life; an officer convicted of murder charges while on duty," the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis said in a statement.

"Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Our thoughts are with former Officer Noor.

"The Federation respects the legal process and the findings of the jury."

Noor is expected to appeal.

 

John Ruszczyk said he was “satisfied” with the guilty verdict. Picture: Chris Juhn for News Corp Australia
John Ruszczyk said he was “satisfied” with the guilty verdict. Picture: Chris Juhn for News Corp Australia