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Judge shouldn't have excluded evidence, Crown says of Anne Norris trial

Anne Norris, 30, speaks to her lawyer, Rosellen Sullivan, at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s Tuesday.
Anne Norris, 30, speaks to her lawyer, Rosellen Sullivan, at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s in a file photo. - Tara Bradbury

Recorded conversations, prison medical records among reasons for notice of appeal

Crown prosecutors are appealing the Anne Norris murder trial verdict on the grounds that the judge should have allowed the jury to hear certain evidence, including recorded conversations between Norris and her jail cellmate.

A jury found Norris, 30, not criminally responsible for the first-degree murder of 46-year-old Marcel Reardon after a month-long trial in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s last month.

Marcel Reardon
Marcel Reardon

Norris admitted killing Reardon by striking him repeatedly with a hammer behind her Brazil Street apartment in May 2016, then moving his body underneath a set of steps. She then put the hammer and her blood-stained jeans into a backpack and threw it into St. John’s harbour.

Norris was arrested three days later by undercover RNC officers at the same Walmart where she had purchased the hammer the night she killed Reardon. She was attempting to purchase another hammer at the time.

Crown prosecutors Iain Hollett and Jeff Summers argued Norris had planned to murder Reardon and knew exactly what she was doing when she killed him, hid the weapon, and lied to police about having nothing to do with his death.

Defence lawyers Rosellen Sullivan and Jerome Kennedy argued Norris did not know that what she was doing was morally wrong, due to a longstanding mental illness that included delusions of being assaulted while she slept as well as psychotic episodes.

After a day and a half of deliberations, the jury agreed with Sullivan and Kennedy.

In its notice of appeal, the Crown says Justice William Goodridge wrongly excluded some statements Norris had made to a police agent in jail last year. Goodridge banned the recordings — which included Norris calling herself a "messy monster" and a "psycho" and making up a song detailing gruesome facts of the killing with the words "Goodnight, Marcel" — saying they were irrelevant or would have "excessive prejudicial impact" on the jury, ruining the possibility of a fair trial.

The Crown is also appealing on the grounds that Goodridge wrongly excluded from evidence medical records and reports of prison psychiatrist Dr. David Craig, who saw Norris after her arrest.

The Crown also says in its notice of appeal Goodridge wrongly allowed Norris’s lawyers to present evidence on surrebuttal — the rebuttal of a rebuttal — that went too far.

In rebutting the testimony of forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jasbir Gill, who told the court she believed Norris knew what she was doing when she killed Reardon, defence lawyers called in Ontario-based forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gary Chaimowitz, who said he thought Norris was delusional at the time she killed Reardon and was attempting to protect herself.

Sullivan told The Telegram on Wednesday she and Kennedy are confident they can address the Crown’s statements on appeal, and are certain the not criminally responsible verdict will hold. They have 30 days to file their response to the appeal notice.

In the meantime, the provincial government says it is offering to organize a debriefing for Norris jurors who may be having difficulty coping with the things they saw and heard during the trial.

A number of jurors had expressed concern at the start of the trial over the gruesome nature of some of the evidence, and the Department of Justice and Public Safety is putting them in touch with a counsellor specializing in critical incident stress management for private sessions.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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