'Frenzied violence' that drove Anne Norris to kill likely caused by mental illness, says psychiatrist
Dr. Nizar Ladha says Norris didn't appear anxious when first recounting incident, unlike other people
The psychiatrist who assessed Anne Norris after she was charged with first-degree murder told Supreme Court Tuesday that Norris said once she started hitting Marcel Reardon with a hammer, she couldn't stop.
She believed that assaulting Marcel was the right thing for her to do in her delusional state.- Dr. Nizar Ladha
"I had no choice. I just couldn't stop," Dr. Nizar Ladha recounted Norris telling him.
Ladha, who is the division head of forensic psychiatry at Eastern Health, was asked by Norris's defence team to conduct a psychiatric assessment after she was arrested for killing Reardon, 46.
Ladha's diagnosis is that Norris has schizophrenia and — at the time she killed Reardon on May 9, 2016 — was ill to the point that, in his opinion, she can't be held responsible for her actions.
"It is highly probable that Anne's uncontrolled frenzied violence that caused Marcel's death was as a result of her mental illness," Ladha concluded in his report on Norris.
"She believed that assaulting Marcel was the right thing for her to do in her delusional state at the time. She would not have comprehended the consequences of her actions."
But the Crown would begin its cross-examination of Ladha later on Tuesday, outlining a series of lies Norris is documented as telling to police about the night she killed Reardon.
She said she had gone to Hospital, police, “no one cared if I lived.” Told him she “had no one, had no support” <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NorrisTrial?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NorrisTrial</a>—@stobincbc
Norris, 30, has admitted to killing Reardon on May 9, 2016, by hitting him repeatedly in the head with a hammer, as well as placing his body under the steps of Harbour View Apartments and disposing of the hammer by putting it inside a borrowed backpack and tossing that into the harbour.
Her defence says she's not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The Crown argues Norris knew the consequences of her actions, and planned to kill Reardon.
'Flatness' in tone when recounting
In Supreme Court on Tuesday, the 13th day of the first-degree murder trial, Ladha told the jury that he first met with Norris on June 1, 2016, for the first review. They met twice more in September of that year and a final time in December 2017.
It wasn't until the second interview that he asked Norris about the night she killed Reardon.
He noted the lack of "appropriate anxiety," saying there was a "flatness" to her tone — not what you would typically expect when talking about a murder.
Would expect someone accused of murder would he anxious when talking about it, Ladha says <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NorrisTrial?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NorrisTrial</a>—@stobincbc
Ladha said psychopaths feel a lack of empathy and have an inability to feel anxiety the way other people do. However, he said that he did not suspect Norris was a psychopath — but rather, that there was something else going on.
In his series of interviews with Norris and after getting a history from her parents, he concluded she is not suffering from a personality disorder, but rather from a serious mental disorder: schizophrenia.
It wasn't until he spoke to her again in December 2017 that she said she was feeling better, safer, able to sleep. It was also the first time she cried when recounting her killing Reardon.
This difference supported his opinion that she was mentally ill when she killed Reardon, Ladha tells court <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NorrisTrial?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NorrisTrial</a>—@stobincbc
'I had no choice'
Norris told Ladha that Reardon was drunk in the early morning of May 9, 2016 and when they got a taxi to her apartment, he fell out on his face, breaking his nose, she suspected.
She went inside to her unit in Harbour View Apartments, leaving Reardon outside the back door.
Someone buzzed her door, Norris told Ladha, but she found no one there. So she grabbed the hammer she had purchased at Walmart earlier that night and went downstairs.
Ladha says she told him “I know he did I just don’t have proof.” Says Norris has said that in several other accusations, assaulted in her sleep by person’s with no proof it had happened <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NorrisTrial?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NorrisTrial</a>—@stobincbc
Ladha said Norris told him she hit Reardon several times — she couldn't recall how many — and moved his body herself.
She was angry at the years of abuse she alleged she was suffering, with no one believing or helping her, Ladha recalled.
Norris told Ladha that she believed Reardon had previously sexually assaulted her, but was unable to prove it.
"Did I believe he would hurt me? Absolutely," Ladha reported Norris telling him about Reardon.
Ladha said over the years, she had made similar claims about others — something he attributes to her delusional behaviour.
Not criminally responsible criteria
During cross-examination Tuesday, Crown Iain Hollett laid out the three criteria for someone being found not criminally responsible: does the person have a mental illness; is it symptomatic at the time of the offence, and are they unable to understand the consequences of the offence.
Ladha agreed with those three pillars, but said they need to be in context of the individual, and it doesn't necessarily mean there needs to be a complete break from reality.
While Norris had been initially committed to the Waterford against her will in April 2016, Hollett pointed out she was de-committed and decided to stay in the facility until she felt good enough to leave — which she did on May 6, three days before killing Reardon.
In addition, Hollett read out statements Norris made to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary about the body found at her apartment building, and what she ultimately did or did not know about.
When asked if reviewing those documents had changed his opinion, Ladha said no, that still in context of Norris's self-reported history, paired with family history, he did not question his diagnosis.
So she’s telling you on June 1 that she was feeling really good until arrested. Doesn’t that effect your opinion. Ladha says she told him later that she actually said she felt more relaxed. Not unusual for someone who commits serious offence while under disorder <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NorrisTrial?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NorrisTrial</a>—@stobincbc
Previous medical history
Ladha said Monday he chose to begin his assessment of Norris in June 2016 before reading into her medical history.
He later learned that, for years, Norris had complained to police about sexual assaults in her sleep; of her involvement in the PIER — Psychosis Intervention and Early Recovery — Program; of her various admissions to psychiatric care and medical history. Ladha said all of that supported his diagnosis of schizophrenia.
Jerome Kennedy and Rosellen Sullivan are representing Norris, and the Crown prosecutors in the case are Iain Hollett and Jeff Summers.
Justice William Goodridge is presiding the trial, which will now extend into the week of Feb. 19, jurors were told last week.
Follow the latest developments from inside the courtroom in our live blog.
Hollett asks fair to say no reference in your report and testimony to any info received from other ppl wth Anne Norris over that period? Ladha says he did not interview any of the other people with Norris; like Peach, O’Brien, jack Huffman, Shawn Pumphrey <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NorrisTrial?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NorrisTrial</a>—@stobincbc