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Norwood v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

April 29, 2015

BRITTANY NORWOOD
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

Page 268

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. Robert Greenberg, Judge.

JUDGMENT OF THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY AFFIRMED. APPELLANT TO PAY COSTS.

Submitted by: Juan P. Reyes (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD for Appellant.

Submitted by: Sarah P. Pritzlaff (Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD for Appellee.

Berger, Nazarian, Leahy, JJ.

OPINION

Page 269

[222 Md.App. 624] Berger, J.

On the morning of March 12, 2011, Brittany Norwood (" Norwood" ), appellant, and her co-worker, Jayna Murray (" Murray" ), were discovered in the Lululemon Athletica retail store in Bethesda, Maryland, the apparent victims of a violent attack. Murray was found deceased, having suffered approximately 331 individual injuries. Norwood was found bound with zip-ties, with a laceration on her forehead and scratches on her abdomen. Norwood's pants were torn at the crotch. A check of Norwood's neck, back, and extremities revealed no injuries. Norwood was placed on a stretcher and transported to a hospital for medical treatment.

Over the course of the next several days, authorities investigated the incident and subsequently came to view Norwood as a suspect rather than a victim. Norwood was ultimately arrested on March 18, 2011 and was subsequently charged with murder. Following an eight-day trial in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, the sole charges submitted to the jury were first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree specific intent to kill murder. On November 2, 2011, the jury found Norwood guilty of first-degree murder. On January 27, 2012, the court sentenced Norwood to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Norwood presents two issues for our review on appeal, which we have rephrased and reordered as follows:

1. Whether the trial court erred by denying Norwood's motion to suppress

Page 270

statements she made to the police on March 16 and 18, 2011.
2. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by permitting a witness to testify about a laceration he saw on Norwood's hand and about knife wounds he had seen in the past.

For the reasons stated herein, we shall affirm the judgment of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.

[222 Md.App. 625]FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Many of the underlying facts of this case are not relevant to the rather limited issues raised on appeal. We set forth the facts significant to the issues presented and further facts that are relevant to the overall context in the light most favorable to the prevailing party.

Norwood and Murray were co-workers at the Bethesda Lululemon Athletica retail store. They had worked together at the store on the night of March 11, 2011. After closing the store, both Norwood and Murray left the building. At 9:51 p.m., Norwood telephoned Eila Rab, another sales associate at Lululemon, and told her that she had left her wallet at the store. Norwood asked Ms. Rab for Murray's telephone number so that she could call Murray and ask her to meet her at the store to let her in. Ms. Rab sent Murray's phone number to Norwood via a text message.

Norwood telephoned Murray, and Murray agreed to meet Norwood at the store. Once Norwood and Murray met at the Lululemon store, a violent encounter occurred which resulted in Murray's death. Employees at the Bethesda Apple Store, which adjoined the Lululemon store, heard noises coming from the Lululemon store shortly after 10:00 p.m., including sounds of dragging, grunting, thudding, and high-pitched squealing. One Apple Store employee asked a security guard to check the nature of the disturbance and spoke to another manager about the noises. The employee continued to hear noises, including screaming and yelling. The employee heard one female voice which sounded hysterical and another female voice saying, " Talk to me. Don't do this. Talk to me. What's going on?" The employee heard additional screaming, yelps, and yells, and heard a voice say, " God help me. Please help me." She did not believe the voice pleading to God was the same voice that had said, " Talk to me. Don't do this." The employee left the Apple Store shortly after 11:00 p.m.

Norwood attacked Murray with multiple weapons, causing approximately 331 individual injuries and ultimately Murray's death. Murray had injuries to her head, face, neck, back, and [222 Md.App. 626] extremities. According to the medical examiner, Murray was alive when she incurred the majority of her injuries. A stab wound to the back of Murray's head hastened her death.

Norwood doctored the scene in order to make it appear that a robbery had occurred and that both Murray and Norwood had been victims of an attack. Norwood used a pair of men's size fourteen Reebok tennis shoes to create bloody footprints at the crime scene.[1] Norwood moved Murray's car to a parking lot further from the Lululemon store and moved various items in the Lululemon store in an attempt to make it appear that a robbery had occurred. Norwood opened the safe in the store and removed three bags of money from it. Norwood inflicted various superficial injuries upon herself, cut a slit in the crotch of her pants, bound her hands and

Page 271

feet with zip ties, and laid on the floor. Norwood then waited to be discovered the following morning.

On the morning of March 12, 2011, manager Rachel Oertli arrived at the Lululemon store shortly before 8:00 a.m. She noticed that the door was unlocked and initially believed that someone had arrived just before her and had forgotten to lock the door. When she entered the store, the lights were on and things were out of place, leading her to believe an altercation had occurred. Ms. Oertli called out and heard someone moaning. She left the store and immediately called 911. Ms. Oertli saw a man, Ryan Haugh, waiting outside the Apple Store[2] and asked him if he would accompany her into the Lululemon store. Although he did not know Ms. Oertli, Mr. Haugh agreed to enter Lululemon with her. After they entered, Mr. Haugh went toward the back of the store by himself at Ms. Oertli's request. Mr. Haugh saw a body lying face down and called out to Ms. Oertli to call the police because it appeared as if someone was dead. As Mr. Haugh [222 Md.App. 627] walked back toward Ms. Oertli, he saw a second person who was tied up but breathing. Mr. Haugh told Ms. Oertli that there was one person who was dead and another person who was alive and appeared to have been sexually assaulted. Ms. Oertli called police for a second time.

Several officers arrived shortly thereafter. When the police approached Norwood, she appeared to be unresponsive. The police found Murray face down in a pool of blood with no pulse. An ambulance arrived at approximately 8:00 a.m. Norwood was placed on a stretcher and transported to Suburban Hospital. Officer Colin O'Brien was working part-time for Suburban Hospital performing security work as a uniformed police officer on March 12. He met the ambulance carrying Norwood when it arrived and followed her stretcher into the trauma bay. Officer O'Brien observed a number of cuts on Norwood's chest, legs, arms, and forehead. In particular, Officer O'Brien noticed a one to two-inch laceration on Norwood's right hand that ran parallel to Norwood's thumb. While at the hospital, Norwood was examined by a sexual assault nurse examiner. The examination revealed no evidence of sexual assault.

Over the next several days, multiple police officers engaged in various conversations with Norwood. Norwood's statements to police officers during conversations were later the subject of a motion to suppress. Specifically, Norwood sought to suppress statements made on March 12, 14, 16, and 18.[3]

The March 12 Interview

Detective Deana Mackie of the Montgomery County Police Department met with Norwood at Suburban Hospital at 10:25 a.m. on March 12, 2011 for approximately forty-five to fifty minutes. After her conversation with Norwood, Detective Mackie went to the Lululemon store before returning to Suburban Hospital at approximately 2:35 p.m. to speak with Norwood further. Detective Mackie viewed Norwood as a [222 Md.App. 628] victim and spoke with her to obtain information in order to develop a suspect. Norwood spoke freely and responded appropriately to Detective Mackie's questions during both sessions. Norwood told Detective Mackie that she

Page 272

and Murray had been attacked by two men wearing masks. She described an attack by two men in significant detail. Norwood told Detective Mackie that she had been raped and sexually assaulted with a clothing hanger. In addition to speaking with Norwood, while at Suburban Hospital, Detective Mackie spoke with various medical professionals.

The March 14 Interview

On March 14, 2011, at approximately 8:00 p.m., Detective Dimitry Ruvin and Detective James Drewry met with Norwood at her residence. The detectives were wearing plainclothes attire. The meeting had been arranged through telephone conversations with Norwood's family members. The detectives' purpose in visiting Norwood was to introduce themselves and inquire as to whether Norwood remembered any additional details of the incident. Detective Ruvin testified that he still considered Norwood a victim during the March 14 interview.

When the detectives arrived, they met several of Norwood's family members. Norwood emerged and the detectives introduced themselves and told her that they wanted to see if she had remembered anything else. At Norwood's suggestion, the detectives and Norwood went downstairs to her living area and sat around a table in the living room area. Norwood recounted her story regarding the events of March 11-12, 2011 while the detectives took notes and recorded a portion of the interview.[4] The atmosphere of the conversation was very [222 Md.App. 629] casual, and Norwood was coherent and cooperative. Norwood told the detectives that she was sexually assaulted. Norwood explained that the attacker told her that the only reason she was not killed was because she was " fun to fuck." Norwood said that one attacker pushed her onto Murray's body. Norwood told detectives that the attackers knew her name and address, which she presumed the attackers found on Comcast and Washington Gas bills which had been in her purse. Norwood told detectives that the attacker swore at her and called her a " dirty slut" and a racial epithet while sexually assaulting her.

Detective Ruvin testified that Norwood became emotional during the conversation about the sexual assault. She had tears in her eyes and looked down a lot, but continued to talk to the detectives. At the end of the interview, Norwood spoke with the detectives about what she was going to do in the future. Norwood told the detectives that her family wanted her to move back to Seattle, but that she had been recently offered a new job in Bethesda, which she planned to begin after she recovered.

The detectives recommended that Norwood inform her family members that the attackers knew her address. She told her family members in front of the detectives. Detective Ruvin testified that Norwood's family members were " very, very concerned." The detectives advised Norwood's

Page 273

family members to contact the police if they saw anything suspicious. Detective Ruvin testified that at the end of the March 14 interview, he still viewed Norwood as a victim.

The March 16 Interview

The detectives met with Norwood a third time on March 16, 2011. Norwood came to the police headquarters at the request [222 Md.App. 630] of Detective Drewry. By this time, Detective Drewry had begun to view Norwood as a suspect. Detective Drewry asked Norwood to come to headquarters in order to provide elimination fingerprints and hair samples. Detective Drewry testified at the hearing on the motion to suppress that Norwood was asked to come in both to provide elimination prints and because " it was also a ruse to get her to come in" to talk to the detectives. Norwood arrived at approximately 5:00 p.m. with two of her siblings. Norwood's siblings left to get something to eat and Norwood was asked to sit in an interview room.

The interview, which was video recorded, took place in an interview room at police headquarters.[5] The interview room had two doors, one of which was often left open and the other of which was occasionally open. During the first approximately one hour of the interview, Norwood spoke informally with Detective Drewry while waiting for evidence technicians to take hair samples, photographs, and fingerprints. Norwood again described being attacked by two assailants. When asked whether she knew the type of car Murray drove, Norwood replied that she did not know. At the end of the interview, Norwood left the station with her family.

The following day, Norwood's brother, Chris Norwood, and sister, Marissa Norwood, contacted the detectives via telephone. Norwood's siblings explained that Norwood had been withholding information from the detectives because she was afraid that the suspects would harm her. Specifically, one of Norwood's siblings told Detective Drewry that the attackers had forced her to move Murray's car. An additional interview was scheduled, at Marissa Norwood's request, for March 18, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.[6]

[222 Md.App. 631]The March 18 Interview

On March 18, Norwood arrived at police headquarters accompanied by her siblings, Marissa and Chris Norwood. Norwood went into an interview room with Detectives Drewry and Ruvin. At the beginning of the interview, Norwood discussed her plans for the future, including the possibility of moving back to her hometown of Seattle to move in with her brother, Chris. Norwood told Detective Drewry that her " only concern" with respect to moving to Seattle was that she wanted to be reachable by police during the investigation.

Unprompted, Norwood initiated a conversation regarding Murray's car, saying, " All right, I'm here because . . . ." Norwood told detectives that prior to the sexual assault, the attackers made her move Murray's car to a different parking lot. According to Norwood, the attackers told her they would be watching her the entire time and threatened to kill her if she talked to anyone. She explained that she went, alone, to move Murray's car. While moving Murray's car, Norwood saw a police officer in a patrol vehicle but did not flag down the officer or attempt to ...


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