Guilty Until Proven Innocent: This Local Murder Trial Is a Curious Case

Despite pleading not guilty, Anne Norris has confessed that she beat Marcel Reardon to death with a hammer while he was sleeping.

Despite confessing that she beat Marcel Reardon to death with a hammer while he was sleeping, Anne Norris is pleading not guilty for the crime.

She says she knowingly killed him, as made evident by her own statement that she “continued hitting him because he wasn’t dead.”

She then disposed of his body under a stairwell attached to an apartment building on Brazil Street.

And then she threw the murder weapon into the St. John’s Harbour.

Guilty But Not Responsible?

It seems like a clear cut case of murder. We even know that she purchased a hammer and knife at Walmart the night she says she killed Reardon, and that the police now have that hammer in evidence, not to mention clothes of hers covered in Reardon’s blood.

But what’s on trial is not IF she committed this fatal act of violence, but whether she can be held criminally responsible for the crime, on account of claims she was not of  sound mind upon bludgeoning Reardon.

The crown is  not denying Norris is mentally unwell, but question the defense’s claim she cannot be held criminally responsible for the murder.

For example, she purchased the murder weapon prior to killing him with it, which could imply premeditation, and she actively disposed of the body and murder weapon, which implies she knew what she was doing was legally wrong.

Prominent Psychiatrist Siding with Defence

Norris’s defense team, lawyers Jerome Kennedy and Rosellen Sullivan, engaged Dr. Nizar Ladha, a division head of forensic psychiatry at Eastern Health, to conduct an assessment of Norris. They contend that Norris, who was 28 at the time of the crime, has not been well, and increasingly so, since she was 24.

She had been freshly released from the Waterford Hospital before murdering Reardon with the hammer. Ladha has diagnosed her with schizophrenia

He contends he believes her understanding of the incident was “foggy,” and that she had a pattern of feeling unsafe in her building, and a delusion that people were out to get her, as demonstrated by her unsubstantiated claims in police reports she filed.

Her lawyers introduced these reports into the case. In the allegedly unsubstantiated claims, Norris stated that intruders were breaking into her home and sexually assaulting her as she slept. This may explain a striking detail of Norris’s recounting of the events the night of Reardon’s murder.

Norris alleges that, on the night of the murder, she picked up the hammer upon hearing someone knock at her door, because she felt unsafe answering the door. There was no one at the door when she answered it. She then walked to where Reardon was sleeping, and Norris says the next thing she knows, she’s beating him to death with the hammer and couldn’t stop herself.

Dr. Ladha says her delusions explain her hoarding of weapons. When Norris was arrested for Reardon’s murder, she was at Walmart trying to buy more hammers.

Dr. Ladha also feels that someone of sound mind wouldn’t have taken a witness with her to toss the murder weapon in the harbour.

Marcel Reardon

The murder took place in May of 2016, and shocked many who knew Norris as a harmless person and accomplished athlete. She once represented Newfoundland in both national-level Karate championships and basketball tournaments.

As for Reardon, we don’t know much. His friends like him (but, by definition, friends like you; this does not speak to character). His family says they were close, but that his lifestyle wasn’t for everyone.

The defence has also submitted evidence of 911 calls made within a day of Reardon’s murder. In these recordings, people allege Reardon was being aggressive.

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