Lawyers for yoga store slaying suspect Brittany Norwood are exploring whether to argue that she is not criminally responsible for the crime because of mental illness, according to a court hearing Wednesday in the case.
The lawyers told Montgomery County Circuit Judge Robert A. Greenberg that they are speaking with mental health experts who could testify at Norwood’s trial.
In Maryland, the so-called “insanity defense” is known as NCR, or Not Criminally Responsible. It asserts that, because of a mental disorder or mental retardation, a suspect lacked the capacity to appreciate that his or or conduct was illegal or lacked the capacity to “conform that conduct to the requirements of law,” according to statutory definitions.
“We contemplate that there probably will be more than one” mental health expert, Christopher Griffiths, a lawyer for Norwood, told Greenberg. “And we are not at a point yet in our investigation of a potential NCR defense that we feel that we can name an expert.”
Because of that, Griffiths said, he likely will ask Greenberg to extend the time in which he must tell prosecutors who the expert or experts would be. That request could push back the trial, which currently is scheduled to begin Oct. 24.
Norwood is accused of killing coworker Jayna Murray in March inside the Lululemon Athletica store along central Bethesda’s high-end shopping district. Prosecutors have said the two probably argued that night over whether Norwood tried to steal items from the store. Prosecutors also said that in the days after the killing, Norwood concocted an elaborate cover-up and maintained that she and Murray were attacked by two masked men who slipped into the store after closing time.
Norwood, wearing a tan prison jumpsuit, appeared at the hearing, but did not speak.
Douglas Wood, another lawyer for her, told Greenberg that he intends to challenge five interviews that Norwood had with detectives, presumably to exclude their use at trial. Wood and Griffiths declined to comment after the hearing.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy, who is trying the case, told Greenberg he intends to introduce evidence showing that Norwood and Murray discussed the possible theft.
“It was part and parcel of what we think served to be a motive to what ultimately transpired that particular night,” McCarthy said.