Nfld. & Labrador

Anne Norris found not criminally responsible for killing Marcel Reardon

Anne Norris, 30, admitted to killing Marcel Reardon, 46, with a hammer. A St. John's trial found her not criminally responsible.

With verdict, Norris will be placed in psychiatric care to be released at discretion of review board

Anne Norris speaks to Jerome Kennedy, one of her defence lawyers, after hearing that she's been found not criminally responsible for killing Marcel Reardon on May 9, 2016. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Anne Norris has been found not criminally responsible for killing Marcel Reardon on May 9, 2016.

Norris, 30, admitted at the first day of her first-degree murder trial in St. John's to killing Reardon by hitting him repeatedly in the head with a hammer.

Jurors sat through days of testimony at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador since the trial began on Jan. 22, before being asked late Thursday afternoon to begin their deliberations.

Anne Norris killed Marcel Reardon, 46, by hitting him repeatedly in the head with a hammer. (Submitted)

Her defence argued Norris was not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, while the Crown asked that Norris be found guilty of first-degree murder.

By late Saturday morning, jurors had agreed on a verdict of not criminally responsible.

It was an emotional verdict for both the Reardon and Norris families, and tears could be seen throughout the courtroom.

Dave Reardon stormed out of the court following the news that his brother's killer was found not criminally responsible.

The Reardon family left shortly after the verdict was read out, and the Norris family declined to speak on the ruling.

Scott and David Reardon sit in Supreme Court in St. John's to hear the verdict in the first-degree murder trial of Anne Norris, the woman who has admitted to killing Marcel Reardon. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

It was not a verdict the Crown wanted, but prosecutor Iain Hollett said it was an understandably difficult situation.

"It's a lot of tough questions that were at play in this case. It was a very difficult issue and you could tell from the way the jury was following along ... for the last few weeks they were very attentive and they were paying a lot of attention," Hollett said.

"These are difficult issues with no easy answers, and I think the jury looked at it and they came up with [a] not criminally responsible verdict."

At this point, Hollett said it's too soon to determine if the Crown will seek to appeal the ruling. It has 30 days to decide.

Hollett and fellow prosecutor Jeff Summers did not dispute that Norris was mentally ill, with a history of medication and psychiatric care, including her involvement in the PIER — Psychosis Intervention and Early Recovery — Program.

But they argued that Norris was aware of her actions when she killed Reardon.

Anne Norris, seen here in surveillance video from Walmart on May 8, 2016, with the yellow-handled Stanley hammer in her cart that she would use to kill Marcel Reardon. (Court Exhibit)

Evidence for the Crown included testimony from the men who found Reardon's body and knew Norris, and from employees at the Topsail Road Walmart who were working the night Norris bought the hammer she used to kill Reardon, and a few nights later when she was arrested while shopping for hammers a second time.

Also entered into evidence was surveillance video of Norris's movements in the hours before and after killing Reardon, as well as testimony from the two people who were with Norris in the hours before and after she killed Reardon.

Newfoundland and Labrador Chief Medical Examiner Simon Avis, who did the autopsy on Reardon, said he couldn't determine the number of blows to his head, given the extent of the injuries, which he called "one of the most damaging injuries I've seen."

Not a 'victory'

Norris's defence lawyers, Jerome Kennedy and Rosellen Sullivan, had been pushing for the not criminally responsible verdict.

Florence and Gary Norris speak with Rosellen Sullivan and Jerome Kennedy, after their daughter was found not criminally responsible for killing Marcel Reardon. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

The verdict was one they were looking for, Sullivan said, but is still a difficult one given the circumstances.

"I wouldn't consider it a victory … but it's what we hoped for. It's what we thought was the right result," said Sullivan.

She praised the six men and six women of the jury for their attentiveness throughout the trial.

"They paid a lot of attention, they asked very smart questions," she said.

"I think they took their role very seriously and I think it was difficult for them to make the decision."

Rosellen Sullivan speaks with Anne Norris at Supreme Court in St. John's on Feb. 24, while awaiting the arrival of the judge and jury in Norris's first-degree murder trial. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Gary Norris, Anne Norris's father, and Brian Constantine, her ex-boyfriend, were the first two witnesses to testify for the defence.

He described his daughter as an empathic child who, as a teenager, was an accomplished athlete and even earned a black belt in karate.

Gary Norris anxiously awaits the return of jurors to deliver a verdict in his daughter Anne Norris's first-degree murder trial. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Norris outlined the years he and his wife, Florence, spent trying to help their daughter with her mental illness.

He spoke of a day when he had to forcibly stop her from taking one of their vehicles, and times when he found weapons — including a BB handgun, a baseball bat and a steak knife — under her bed.

This is the BB handgun, with a trigger lock in place, that Gary Norris found under Anne Norris's bed. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Constantine spoke about the day Norris told him she had been sexually abused by a coach from the ages of 13 to 17. She made a complaint to police in 2011 and an investigation ensued, but was later suspended when the Norris family became concerned about their daughter's deteriorating mental health.

Her first stay in psychiatric care followed shortly after in 2012. That's when Norris began seeing Dr. Kellie LeDrew, with the PIER program, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms.

The reaction when Anne Norris found not criminally responsible

4 years ago
Norris, 30, admitted to killing Marcel Reardon on May 9, 2016, but argued she wasn't criminally responsible. The jury agreed. 1:29

'Very unusual verdict'

Sullivan said Norris will now move from the lockup to the Waterford Hospital, and she will remain in psychiatric care until a review board deems her fit to be released.

"She now goes under the jurisdiction of the Newfoundland and Labrador Review Board, so it really is totally out of the court system," she said.

"They are solely responsible for her treatment and maintenance and hopeful release to the community."

Kennedy said the verdict isn't a common one across Newfoundland and Labrador, adding there is a need for change in how the criminal justice system deals with people who are mentally ill or have addictions issues.

"It's a very unusual verdict. You won't find a lot of them in our province," said Kennedy.

"It's something that's very necessary because one of the basic principles of our criminal justice system is that if someone doesn't have the requisite state of mind … they should not be held liable for their criminal acts."

Catch up on things as they happened in the courtroom in our live blog.

With files from Glenn Payette and Andrew Sampson