Seems like a couple of themes are coming together to prompt me to get back to posting. Sadly, it is the tale of a gruesome murder here in Montgomery County – the trial for which is about to wrap up. Brittany Norwood stands accused of first-degree murder in the killing of Jayna Murray inside the Lululemon Athletic store in Bethesda earlier this year. Courtroom observers are reporting on Twitter today that the prosecution is wrapping up its case and that the defense, amazingly, may not put on a case of their own. The matter could go to the jury as early Thursday.
The case has been on my mind because of the details revealed in court as to how the murder occurred. Allegedly, Murray confronted Norwood about stealing merchandise and an argument ensued in which Norwood bludgeoned Murray to death inside the store. What gets me, and many others, are two points: one, the cowardly acts of employees in the Apple store next door; and two, the fact that Murray apparently was unable to defend herself properly against her assailant.
Testimony was elicited that indicated that at least two Apple employees heard the commotion next door as they were closing up, including pleas for help and cries for mercy, and yet they did nothing. They didn't go next door to check it out or call the police. Instead, they chalked it up to some “drama” and walked away. Their own security guard sat nearby oblivious to his surrounds listening to his iPod. Defense counsel Douglas Wood cleverly posited to the employee who works at the Genius Bar that they weren't all geniuses, now were they? Indeed not. I can't imagine how angry Murray's family must be knowing that these two had it within their power to prevent their daughter's slaying if they had only picked up the phone. And I can't help but think that there will be some who hold it against Apple, and the Bethesda store, somehow.
Personally, though, it is understanding what happened in the physical confrontation that bothers me the most. As a martial arts teacher for close to twenty-five years, I have to believe that if Jayna Murray had just a little bit of training she might have been able to fight back enough that she could have gotten away. Trial testimony indicates that she was trapped in a narrow hallway leading to the emergency exit when she was struck down. Blood splatter analysis shows that she was first attacked while standing, then while kneeling or crouching, and finally after she lay prone on the floor. This has all the earmarks of a victim just trying to cover up and not being able to disarm her assailant and gain just a few seconds to escape. I always told my students that there are no guarantees when it comes to a physical confrontation. But had she just a little bit of training I would have liked her chances.
The defense concedes that Norwoord killed Murray. It will come down to whether or not there is a sufficient basis to establish pre-meditation which carries the potential for life without parole. The medical examiner indicated that Murray suffered 322 injuries in the attack. I think my closing argument would be that Norwood had at least 321 opportunities to rethink her behavior.