A woman charged with second-degree murder in the "exorcism" death of a 3-month-old boy last year told police in detail about the shaking, punching, and choking by the baby's mother that led to the child's death, according to a tape recording of the woman's comments played at her trial yesterday.
The woman, Joyce Lillian Pope, 28, of 7348 Damascus Rd, Gaitherburg, has pleaded innocent in the death of the infant, Damiko Lee Norris, who died at Pope's home last April 11. The child's mother, Mellisa Vera Norris, was fred Sept. 14 after being found inncoent of murder by reason of insanity.
Ten days after the Palm Sunday death of the baby, Pope made a statement to two Montgomery Country Police officers in which she described the scene she claimed to have witnessed in her bedroom. She was not under oath when she made the four-hour tape-recorded statement, and her attorney has protested its introduction by the prosecution into evidence at her trial, being heard without a jury by Montgomery Country Circuit Judge Philip M.Faribanks.
During the interview last April 21, Pope told police that Norris and Norris' baby boy had been staying at her house for several days. "She had often made the sign of the cross over the baby, . . . but I paid it no mind," Pope said on the tape.
Then, on the morning of the child's death, Norris suddenly began using a "deep voice . . . and I knew she had turned to God again," she said.
On the tape, Pope told police that Norris asked her to come into the bedroom. There, she said, she found Norris addressing her baby "as if it was Satan," and saying. "Don't you know I am God . . . Who do you think you are . . . Don't think you can hide behind that smile."
Norris then began "punching" at the baby's stomach with her fingers, looking for "Satan," Pope said on the tape. "Then, where she thought it (Satan) was, she'd push" there, she said.
"Don't you know you can't stay here?" the Pope quoted the mother as having said to her baby, who was born two months prematurely. "This is my property, God's property . . . I refute you in the name of Jesus."
The tempo of the battery against the baby intensified as Norris, "whose eyes never blinked," continued calling the baby "Satan," Pope said on the tape recording.
Norris "shook the baby on the shoulders. Then, all of a sudden, she was pounding the stomach, chest and below the stomach with her fingers . . . then she was hitting it (the baby), beating it, talking all the time" about Satan and Jesus, the taped version continued.
Pope, who cried frequently as she heard her voice played, told police on the tape taht "I stood there, and I watched, and as God is my witness, I couldn't move . . . I know she was hurting the baby, but it was as if there was a shield between us," preventing her from stopping the beating, she said.
When Pope's sister, Angela Lancaster, arrived at the end of the "exorcism," the three women drove the baby to the home of Norris' grandparents, who refused to let their granddaughter in. Then the group drove to the Christian Tabernacle Church, 3707 Georgia Ave., whose minister, the Rev. William Hart, called a police rescue unit that was unable to revive the child.
At Norris' September trial, the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney all agreed she was insame at the time of the "exorcism", which meant she could not be convicted. Judge John J. Mitchell ruled, however, that Norris was same at the time of the trial and therefore could not be sent to a mental institution. She was freed.
If convicted of second-degree murder, defined as murder without premeditation, Pope could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison. Her trial is expected to last until Monday.