Former NL athlete Anne Norris found not ‘criminally responsible’ in murder trial

After pleading not guilty, former elite Newfoundland athlete Anne Norris (30) has been found not criminally responsible for the first-degree murder of Marcel Reardon (46). The verdict was announced by a Newfoundland jury consisting of six men and six women on Feb.24, 2018. Norris will be placed in psychiatric care in the forensic unit inside the Waterford Hospital in St. John’s, the oldest hospital for mental health patients in North America.

The incident unfolded on May 9, 2016 when Norris repeatedly hit Reardon in the head with a hammer, possibly with the full intention of killing him. According to the agreed system of facts, after the attack, the former athlete put the murder weapon, her jeans and rope into a borrowed backpack and threw the bag in St. John’s harbor. As per the facts, Norris had purchased a 16 oz. Stanley hammer at a Walmart store few hours prior to the incident.

According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Chief Medical Examiner Simon Avis, given the extent of the injuries inflicted on the body, he could not determine the number of blows that were cast on his head. As per him, it was “one of the most damaging injuries” that he ever witnessed.

Planned attack or act of delusion?

During the trial, Norris’ father had testified to her deteriorating mental health after an alleged sexual attack earlier in life. However, as concerns about her mental health grew, the case was later put on hold. According to a defense forensic psychiatric, Norris testified to being delusional and repeatedly striking Reardon. She also admitted dragging Reardon’s body under the Harbour View Apartments. While the body was discovered the next morning, the bag containing the murder weapon was recovered two days after the incident.

As per the defense team, as Norris was in the grip of a mental health disorder when she attacked Reardon, she should be found not criminally responsible for the incident. However, according to the Crown prosecutors, the evidence presented at trial clearly showed that Norris was not delusional at the time of the incident and had planned the attack with the intent to kill Reardon. The prosecutors, however, did not dispute that Norris was mentally ill and had a history of medication and psychiatric care but affirmed that she was aware of her actions when she killed Reardon.

Not a victory but something that was hoped for

On being found not criminally responsible (NCR), Norris will now be placed under the care of the Newfoundland and Labrador Review Board consisting of a layperson, medical professionals and a judge. After reviewing her case, if Norris is found fit, she would return to the society on a graduated release.

The verdict has received mixed reactions. According to defense lawyer Jerome Kennedy, the verdict was “very unusual” and rare in Newfoundland and Labrador. Rosellen Sullivan, another defense lawyer stated that an NCR verdict does not mean that Norris has got away with a murder; it restricts one’s liberty for an indeterminate amount of time. As per Sullivan, “It’s not a win by any standard, but it’s what we hoped for.”

Recovery road map

People recovering from a mental illness or an addiction often face serious legal problems that interfere with their chances of getting better and leading a sober life. Sovereign Health Group is a leader among mental health and addiction treatment service providers. By keeping legal and financial issues at bay, we help our clients focus on their recovery.

At Sovereign Health Group Court Services, our advocates work as a liaison between client and court, providing updates and taking care of necessary paperwork. Our staff works tirelessly to secure treatment over jail term and remove the financial barriers in seeking appropriate care and treatment. For more information, call our 24/7 helpline (866) 439-7698 to speak with a professional in your area or chat online with an expert.

February 28, 2018

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