A Newfoundland jury found Anne Norris (“Norris”) not criminally responsible in the death of 46-year-old Marcel Reardon (“Reardon”).
Following the verdict, Norris has been placed in the custody of the Newfoundland and Labrador Criminal Mental Disorder Review Board for psychiatric treatment.
Norris pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Reardon’s death, but admitted to repeatedly hitting him in the head with a hammer early in the morning of May 9, 2016.
The following details admitted by Norris were presented to the jury:
- Norris socialized with Reardon and two others downtown in St. John’s on May 8, 2016, before leaving alone and going to Walmart on Topsail Road;
- Norris purchased a knife and a 16 oz. Stanley hammer at a Walmart hours before the incident;
- Norris returned downtown and in the early morning hours of May 9, 2016 she and Reardon took a cab to Harbour View Apartments on Brazil Street, where she lived;
- Norris killed Reardon by striking him several times in the head with the hammer, then moved his body under a set of concrete steps;
- Norris put the murder weapon, her jeans and some rope into a borrowed backpack and threw it in St. John’s harbour;
- The backpack was recovered two days later and turned over to the police; and
- Norris admitted to owning a sock, scarf, bathrobe and a pair of sneakers taken by police from her apartment, which were found to contain Reardon’s blood.
The issues at trial were whether or not Norris was mentally sound enough to be criminally responsible for Reardon’s death, and if so, whether or not the killing included the intent and planning required for first-degree murder.
Norris’ lawyers maintained that she was suffering from a mental disorder when she attacked Reardon and therefore should be found “not criminally responsible”. Her lawyers suggested that Norris was “a ticking time bomb” and had been on a “downward spiral” since the age of 24. She has received treatment in the past for psychosis and has a longtime belief that she was being sexually assaulted by various men while she slept. She had been released from the Waterford Hospital practically untreated days before she killed Reardon. Lawyers argued that Norris thought Reardon was going to sexually assault her and that’s why she attacked him.
On the other hand, Crown prosecutors argued that the evidence demonstrated that Norris was not delusional and planned a deliberate killing, even going so far as to dispose of the weapon. Lawyers for the Crown reasoned that although Norris had a mental illness, there was no evidence of her being symptomatic at the time of the attack.
The trial lasted one month and 31 witnesses were called, including police officers, friends of Norris, Norris’ father, employees of Walmart, the province’s chief medical examiner, five psychiatrists and one psychologist.
WHAT DOES “NOT CRIMINALLY RESPONSIBLE” MEAN?
Not criminally responsible (“NCR”) is defined in section 16 of the Criminal Code. An individual is NCR if he/she was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence, and:
- the mental disorder made it impossible for him/her to understand the nature and quality of what he/she did; or
- the mental disorder made it impossible for him/her to understand that what he/she did was morally wrong, not just legally wrong.
The party raising the issue of NCR has the burden. More likely than not it is the defence who must prove the accused is NCR on the “balance of probabilities”.
Once an individual is found NCR, he/she is not acquitted. Instead the individual is diverted to a provincial or territorial review board (pursuant to section 672.38 of the Criminal Code), which are independent tribunals made up of at least five people, including a licensed psychiatrist. Each year cases are heard by the board at which point the board can impose one of the following:
- that the individual remain detained in a hospital with varying levels of privileges;
- that the individual be released on a conditional discharge (individuals are allowed into the community where they have substantial freedom and relatively light conditions); or
- that the individual be released on an absolute discharge (individuals are released into the community without any supervision).
Absolute discharges are only granted when the board finds the individual is not a “significant threat” to public safety.
The Crown, in this case, has 30 days to decide whether it will seek to appeal the verdict. In the meantime, Norris will remain in psychiatric care until a review board deems her fit to be released into the community.
If you have been charged with a serious offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.