Top News

What’s next for Anne Norris after Newfoundland Supreme Court verdict?

Anne Norris waits for jurors to arrive and deliver their verdict in her murder trial in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Saturday morning.
Anne Norris waits for jurors to arrive and deliver their verdict in her murder trial in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Saturday morning. - Tara Bradbury

As she is moved from jail to hospital, Crown will consider appeal of NCR verdict

After two years behind bars, Anne Norris will move from the province’s female correctional facility in Clarenville to the Waterford Hospital in St. John’s.
How long she stays there and the conditions of her potential release back into the community are the responsibility of the Criminal Code Mental Disorder Review Board — a panel of mental healthcare workers led by former provincial court chief judge Reg Reid.

They are responsible for reviewing and making decisions related to the management of people found not criminally responsible for criminal acts, as well as accused who are deemed unfit to stand trial.

The five-person panel, which will conduct its first assessment of Norris within the next two months, can choose to keep her in hospital with or without conditions, or can grant her an absolute or conditional discharge.

“We’ve really got to ask ourselves as a society, is locking people up without treatment, is that really achieving the result we want to achieve, knowing that people are going to be released again? Part of the wider issue that’s taking place in our society is the discussion around mental illness and how we treat it, and I think that we need, as a society, to look at prisons and the way we’re dealing with people in prisons.”

Defence lawyer Jerome Kennedy

Around noon on Saturday, Norris, 30, was declared not criminally responsible for the murder of 46-year-old Marcel Reardon in May 2016. The 12 jurors presented their verdict to the court after about a day and a half of deliberations.

Marcel Reardon, who was killed by Anne Norris in 2016, is shown in this photo provided by his family. He may have had an atypical lifestyle, but he was close to his siblings and had a “heart of gold,” his loved ones say.
Marcel Reardon, who was killed by Anne Norris in 2016, is shown in this photo provided by his family. He may have had an atypical lifestyle, but he was close to his siblings and had a “heart of gold,” his loved ones say.

Norris broke down in tears when the verdict was announced, as did members of her family and the family of Reardon. Both sides had been present in the courtroom every day for the past month as the trial unfolded.

“Oh my God,” a female member of Reardon’s family was heard saying, looking in disbelief toward members of the media, as other members of his family put their arms around each other, crying. "This is bullshit," one of Reardon’s brothers exclaimed, standing up and leaving the courtrooom abruptly.
Both Reardon’s and Norris’s family members declined comment Saturday.

Outside the courtroom, defence lawyers Rosellen Sullivan and Jerome Kennedy spoke to reporters, saying while they are pleased with the verdict, they don’t consider it a cause for celebration.

“It’s still an NCR verdict, it’s not a win by any standards, but it’s what we hoped for and what we thought was the right result,” Sullivan said, praising the jury for their attention and dedication.

Kennedy said he believes changes are needed when it comes to how people with mental illness are treated within the province’s justice system.

Justice William Goodridge arrives in the courtroom Saturday morning, where a jury delivered a verdict of not criminally responsible in the murder trial of Anne Norris. — Tara Bradbury
Justice William Goodridge arrives in the courtroom Saturday morning, where a jury delivered a verdict of not criminally responsible in the murder trial of Anne Norris. — Tara Bradbury

“I only estimate, but I’ve always thought that 80 per cent of what goes through our criminal justice system, though our courts, is alcohol or drug related and mental illness,” said the defence lawyer, who served as provincial minister of justice for a year in 2007/2008 and minister of health from 2009 to 2011 under the Williams and Dunderdale governments.

“We’ve really got to ask ourselves as a society, is locking people up without treatment, is that really achieving the result we want to achieve, knowing that people are going to be released again? Part of the wider issue that’s taking place in our society is the discussion around mental illness and how we treat it, and I think that we need, as a society, to look at prisons and the way we’re dealing with people in prisons.”

RELATED STORIES

The murder trial of Anne Norris: what you need to know

A question the Anne Norris trial will never settle

Jury shown graphic photos during Anne Norris’s murder trial

Crown prosecutors Iain Hollett and Jeff Summers say it’s too early to determine if they will appeal the verdict, but they will be considering it over the next 30 days. They, too, praised the jurors for their attention, especially when it came to some difficult issues.

Anne Norris's parents, Florence and Gary Norris, speak to defence lawyers Rosellen Sullivan and Jerome Kennedy after receiving the verdict Saturday. — Tara Bradbury
Anne Norris's parents, Florence and Gary Norris, speak to defence lawyers Rosellen Sullivan and Jerome Kennedy after receiving the verdict Saturday. — Tara Bradbury

“There was obviously a lot of procedural things that may not occur all the time in courts here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but in terms of the actual facts, in terms of what happened, that was clear from day one,” Summers told The Telegram. “Obviously there was a lot of evidence in terms of medical history and psychiatric opinion that was quite complicated that the jury had to sift through.”

Summers and Hollett argued Norris had planned to kill Reardon, leaving him and others she had been hanging out with downtown on May 8, 2016, to buy a hammer and a knife at Walmart. She then returned to the group and, in the early hours of May 9, ended up in a cab with Reardon, headed towards her Brazil Street apartment.

She killed Reardon behind the building by striking him repeatedly in the head with a hammer and moved his body underneath a set of steps before going back downtown and throwing a backpack containing the hammer and her bloodstained jeans into the harbour. She was arrested at the same Walmart three days later, while attempting to buy more hammers and knives and other items.

Sullivan and Kennedy successfully argued that Norris, who had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, delusions and psychosis, was in a psychotic state at the time she killed Reardon and was rendered incapable of knowing what was morally right or wrong.

Defence lawyers Jerome Kennedy and Rosellen Sullivan speak to members of the media outside the courtroom Saturday. —Tara Bradbury
Defence lawyers Jerome Kennedy and Rosellen Sullivan speak to members of the media outside the courtroom Saturday. —Tara Bradbury

Over the past month, 31 witnesses took the stand to testify, including people who had interacted with Norris and Reardon the day of the killing, people who had been in contact with Norris in the days leading up to her arrest, police officers, Norris’s father and her ex-boyfriend, cab drivers, Walmart employees and others, as well as mental health experts for both the Crown and the defence.

When asked how Norris has been faring in prison when it comes to her mental health, Sullivan said the trial proved stressful for her, but the structured environment has been beneficial.
 

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Recent Stories