Norwood To Face Sentencing Jan. 27
Prosecutors, defense paint different pictures of Norwood in closing statements.
Brittany Norwood, 29, convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of her co-worker Jayna Murray at Bethesda’s Lululemon store, will face sentencing at 1:30p.m. January 27.
She could spend the rest of her life in prison, without the possibility of parole.
A jury in the high-profile murder case that shocked the Bethesda community and drew intense regional and national media spotlight returned the guilty verdict shortly before 7p.m. Wednesday evening, after just over an hour of deliberation.
The trial concluded Wednesday after six days of testimony. Medical examiner Mary Ripple was last to take the stand. Ripple testified that Murray suffered at least 331 wounds – all suffered while she was alive.
In closing statements, the defense aimed to show that Norwood was not a cool, deliberate and cunning killer who premeditated an attack on her co-worker. Rather, they said, Norwood, in attacking Murray with weapons found near her in the shop and concocting a half-baked cover-up story, displayed the behavior of someone who was “delusional.”
Holding up an autopsy photograph of Murray’s body, Norwood’s attorney Douglas Wood said, “Does this look like someone who had planned to kill would cause someone’s death like this?”
Wood said that Norwood grabbed items around her that were left out in the store’s back utility area –contesting the state’s assertion that Norwood had to leave the back hallway where Murray’s body was found to retrieve weapons kept in other areas of the store – in a killing he called a “crime of passion.”
He said multiple witnesses testified that Murray’s death had been quick.
Wood contested the state’s assertion that Norwood had lured Murray back to the store on the pretense of forgetting her wallet. He questioned why Norwood would leave the shop in the first place had she planned to kill later that evening.
“The state’s made much of luring [Murray] back to the shop, but why? What’s the motive?” Wood asked. “The absence of motive is an indication it was not pre-meditated.”
Montgomery County Circuit Court judge Robert Greenberg disallowed the state from presenting evidence to the jury about a phone call between Murray and other store employees that could have helped them establish a motive – that Murray had discovered Norwood attempting to steal a pair of yoga pants from the store.
Wood asked the jury to find Norwood guilty of second-degree murder. The defense did not call any witnesses to the stand.
In their closing statements, the state called Norwood an actress and a manipulator, playing again for the court a tape of Norwood crying and sniffling in her first interview with police March 12 as she described her alleged attackers.
State’s Attorney John McCarthy said the luring of Murray back to the shop, the number of injuries Murray sustained and the multiple weapons Norwood used – among them a knife, hammer, wrench, rope and merchandise peg – all pointed to premeditation.
"This crime took an enormous amount of time and there were dozens of opportunities, multiple times for her to stop this,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the decision to retrieve other weapons – including knives, kept on the other side of the store – showed premeditation.
“As you are switching weapons, the weapons are not magically appearing in your hands. She’s got pick them up, to go get them, to retrieve them. The knives are on the other side of the store,” McCarthy said. “There’s been a suggestion by Mr. Wood that she just ‘lost it.’ Call me crazy, but if you just lose it, I think you stick with the same weapon. There’s a conscious decision to re-arm because what you’re doing is not getting the job done.”
The state said the attack began on one side of the store and moved to another as Norwood chased Murray, who was beginning to bleed after being struck in the head with a merchandise peg. They said Murray left a bloody palm print and knocked over a television as she staggered through the store, attempting to reach the back emergency exit. There, according to the state, Norwood pulled her back and trapped her behind a door in the back hallway.
That Murray’s own hair was found in her hands indicates she was trying to defend her head against the blows, McCarthy said.
“I think it’s difficult for all of us as decent human beings to believe someone would want to do this,” prosecutor Marybeth Ayres said. “As human beings, we want to believe it’s the masked men. You don’t want to believe it’s the articulate, educated, attractive girl next door.”
Following the verdict, a juror told the media that the group did question Norwood’s motive, but ultimately – even without the information about the alleged stealing – said it was juror’s job to determine premeditation, not motive.
“There’s no justification for what happened,” juror Donny Knepper said. “Part of the deliberations, I guess, of course we want to know, ‘Why did this happen?’ And there was no explanation given during the trial. What we came to ultimately was it’s not our job to decide why it happened, our job is to decide if it was premeditated.”
The evidence, Knepper said, was “overwhelming.” What ultimately swayed the jury, he said, was the number of injuries and that they happened while Murray was still alive.
Speaking following the verdict, there were tears and hugs exchanged between the Murray family.
“I know the trauma our family has been through and I want no other family to go through this,” said Phyllis Murray, Jayna Murray’s mother, crying. “I felt the brutality was indescribable. I want no other victim.”
McCarthy said he will pursue a sentence of life without parole for Norwood. Wood said he hopes for a sentence of life with parole.