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Anger led to killing, psychiatrist tells Anne Norris trial in St. John's

Dr. Jasbir Gill, one of two forensic psychiatrists in Newfoundland and Labrador, testified as a rebuttal witness for the Crown at the murder trial of Anne Norris in St. John’s Monday.
Dr. Jasbir Gill, one of two forensic psychiatrists in Newfoundland and Labrador, testified as a rebuttal witness for the Crown at the murder trial of Anne Norris in St. John’s Monday. - Tara Bradbury

Anne Norris’s actions didn’t match her words, doctor testifies

If Anne Norris was frightened of Marcel Reardon, she didn’t act like it, the jury at her murder trial heard Monday afternoon.

On one hand, Norris told forensic psychiatrist Dr. Nizar Ladha she had been feeling unsafe in the period of time before she killed Reardon, and was scared of strangers, ex-boyfriends, members of her family and the other tenants in her apartment building on Brazil Street.

“I was extremely paranoid,” she said, adding it was “pretty extreme,” and she was afraid to go to sleep because she felt people were sexually assaulting her.

Norris said she kept knives and hammers near her bed for protection.

On the other hand, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jasbir Gill testified, Norris was not described as seeming frightened, tense or guarded during the same time period by anyone but herself. Apart from buying a hammer, there is very little to suggest Norris was suffering from delusions as intense as she described, Gill said.

“Between December 2015 and the time of the offence, Ms. Norris expressed that she was experiencing delusions. However, I am having concerns about how to connect those delusional thoughts with her feelings and behaviours,” Gill wrote in a report she produced for Crown prosecutors Jeff Summers and Iain Hollett, which she presented to the court Monday.

Anne Norris thought what she was doing was right, psychiatrist says

Norris’s lawyers rest case in St. John’s murder trial

Norris, 30, has admitted she killed Reardon in the early morning of May 9, 2016 by hitting him repeatedly in the head with a hammer she purchased hours earlier, and hid his body underneath a set of steps at the back of her apartment building.

Her lawyers say she is not criminally responsible for his death by way of mental illness. Prosecutors say she is guilty of first-degree murder, having planned to kill him and knowing full well what she was doing.

Ladha and Gill are the province’s only two forensic psychiatrists. Last week, Ladha testified as an expert witness for the defence and presented a report in which he diagnosed Norris as schizophrenic or perhaps schizo-affective. He suggested she was in a psychotic state at the time she killed Reardon, 46, spurred by intense anxiety over her belief Reardon was going to break into her apartment and sexually assault her or kill her as she slept.

Ladha told the court he met with and examined Norris over four sessions between June 1, 2016 and December 22, 2017 and had based his conclusions solely on what Norris and her parents had told him.

Testifying as the Crown’s rebuttal witness, Gill told the court on Monday Norris had declined to meet with her or consent to providing her correctional records and medical records from prison, so she based her conclusions on other information. That included Norris’s Eastern Health file, reports from Ladha and psychologist Randy Penney, information compiled by Norris’s parents, police files and videos, Reardon’s autopsy report, and the transcript of Norris’s preliminary inquiry.

Gill disputed Ladha’s diagnosis, saying she believes Norris suffers from a combination of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, as other treating psychiatrists had noted in the past.

Gill told the court Norris’s actions didn’t match her words, and noted Norris had spent much of the day before she killed Reardon socializing outside and mingling with strangers, most of them men. She left the group to go to Walmart and buy the hammer, but then returned to the same group, including Reardon, whom Norris already knew was drunk and belligerent, and had just been evicted and had recently been released from the lockup. Norris told Ladha she believed Reardon had assaulted at least two women and was dangerous.

“Yet despite this she returned to him, she bought alcohol for him and she left with him under no duress to a secluded location,” Gill wrote in her report. “Once at the apartment building, it is not understood why she would go to the effort of taking a man who she was afraid of, who she believed had already sexually assaulted her in her sleep, and who could barely walk and needed help to move, to an even more secluded area of her building.”

Regarding whether or not she knew what she was doing was wrong, Gill said there is evidence to suggest Norris was not in a psychotic state at the time she killed Reardon. She pointed to Norris’s attempts to cover up her actions and lie about them, and questioned why, if she was afraid of Reardon, she didn’t hit him with the hammer earlier. Though Norris had previously accused her father of harming her, she had never used the weapons under her bed to attack him while she was living at home, Gill said, and questioned why Norris had previously bought cleaning supplies and rubber gloves along with the weapons she wanted for protection.

Norris’s hospital records revealed similar inconsistencies, Gill testified. Though Norris was admitted to hospital many times between 2012 and 2016 for depression and suicidal thoughts, her demeanour would often switch to being pleasant and jovial after she was admitted. She’d report feeling scared of men and of being sexually assaulted in her sleep, but would enter the rooms of male patients and was seen cuddling with a male patient on a couch. Sometimes, she’d report feeling fearful and paranoid, but would be seen laughing and socializing with other patients.

Hospital notes revealed Norris appeared to have a tense relationship with her family, and she seemed particularly agitated when her parents were out of the country, Gill testified. She was noted as being rude, sarcastic and disobedient to rules, getting angry at one point and punching a wall over the hospital’s no-smoking policy. Norris was placed in seclusion after she was found smoking in the hallway and became angry, Gill said.

Norris told Ladha she had been in seclusion because she felt unsafe around men on the unit at night, but, after a nurse interjected, admitted it was because of the smoking incident.

Norris also had issues when staying in various shelters, Gill told the court, with staff reporting she would break curfew, invite men into her room and otherwise break rules. One outburst reportedly resulted in property damage.

Gill noted Norris hasn’t appeared to require medications or hospitalization since her arrest, and said this wouldn’t be consistent with a schizophrenia diagnosis, which typically gets worse without treatment. Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, however, tend to be episodic illnesses, and the structure of a prison setting could help with emotional stability, the psychiatrist explained in her report.

Gill also questioned Norris’s statements to Ladha during his assessment that she was “very sick” and “so delusional” at the time she killed Reardon, wondering how Norris gained such insight into her condition without any treatment.

Gill said there could have been a “reality-based motivation” for Norris to kill Reardon, possibly stemming from trauma. Norris had filed a complaint to the RNC in 2011, alleging a former basketball coach had sexually assaulted her for years when she was a young teenager. The police investigation was halted when it was deemed to be affecting Norris’s mental health, though Norris’s family and many of her doctors believe the allegations to be true.

“I think that anger regarding her original sexual abuse, intolerable feelings of abandonment and intense difficulty coping with the trajectory of her life afterwards is a very plausible explanation,” Gill told the court.

Defence lawyers Jerome Kennedy and Rosellen Sullivan will begin their cross-examination of Gill Tuesday morning.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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