Reporter discusses details of Lululemon trial and verdict

Nov 03, 2011

Brittany Norwood was convicted of first-degree murder in the Lululemon trial after closing arguments at Montgomery County Circuit Court. Chat with Post reporter Dan Morse, who covered the trial, as he discusses the trial details and the guilty verdict. Ask questions, give your opinions, and discuss what happens next.

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Photo Gallery: Norwood convicted in Lululemon killing
Brittany Norwood found guilty of first degree murder in Lululemon trial

Hi, this is Dan Morse. Looking forward to your questions and comments. Thanks.

How many hours did the jury deliberate, and how does this compare to other convictions in murder cases?

They were in the jury room for no more than an hour. But part of that time was waiting for the exhibits to be brought to them. And part of that time was after they'd reached their verdict waiting to come back into the courtroom. So it was quick. The actual deliberations could have been as short as 30 minutes. Perhaps even quicker. And that is quicker than other murder trials I covered.

It seems obvious that the jury did not buy that this was a spontaneous outburst and that is was premeditated. Do you believe the defense was reaching to claim it was not premeditated? Even if it was not premeditated, don't the fact that there were so many stab wounds rule out that at least the subsequent and possibly fatal wounds, by the time they were delived, involved premeditation?

Brittany's defense lawyers are very good. So tactically speaking, they may not have had much of a choice.

Will we ever know more about a motive?

More about motive may come out at Brittany Norwood's sentencing, set for late January. Here is a story I wrote about motive.

Were the Apple store employees asked why they didn't call the police?

After both Apple employees testified, I approached them outside the courtroom and tried to ask them. They declined to comment.

Why didn't the defense offer some testimony about Norwood's current mental status? Would that have helped the jury buy their story that she acted on impulse?

I don't know. But there were indications that she didn't have a history of mental health issues, or being treated for mental health issues. Her brother was asked about that during the investigation, and "emphatically denied that she had any mental health issues," according to court records. This also may explain why her lawyers couldn't put on full-scale insanity defense, known in Maryland as Not Criminally Responsible.

Were the women romantically involved??

Zero indication of that from my reporting.

Post-conviction, I heard a quote from Norwood's defense attorney stating that he never bought into the theft of the yoga pants as being the motive. Do you have any other insight as to alternative motives?

I don't. But you know the yoga pants only gets us so far anyway. Even if Brittany thought she was going to lose her job over the incident, it doesn't even begin to explain what she did, of course.

What are your feelings with the surpressed conversation that Ms. Murray had with other co-worker that evening? Can it be allowed at sentencing?

In general, prosecutors can bring out more in sentencing that goes to the character of the person being sentenced. I suspect they'll try to introduce some of this material.

The coverage of this horrible case answered most of my questions and the verdict is well deserved. However, I still can't picture in my mind how Norwood could possibly have not showed any emotion during the whole trial? Can anyone from the Post describe more of her affect/body language? I wish she had been called to the stand. Thanks.

It would have been tough for her lawyers to call her to the stand. She had told so many lies during the investigation that she would have been subjected to withering cross-examination ... She really showed little emotion during the trial ... She looked down a lot ... I never even saw her look over at her family.

Did Brittany Norwood's family show any reaction to the verdict?

At least one of her family members was crying. People who know her family, and know the case, repeatedly described the family to me in the most positive of terms. Watching them sit through this trial, knowing they were hearing in detail what Brittany did, was, well, just incredibly sad.

Hadn't she been accused of stealing from other places she worked?

We could never find records of her being criminally charged. She had a reputation for stealing in college, according to some of her classmates I spoke with.

How much time do you think she'll get for this?

Prosecutors will ask for a life sentence with the condition that Norwood never get a chance at parole. Based on other first-degree murder trials I have covered in Montgomery, and the details of this killing, there is very good chance they will get this sentence.

Has Brittany Norword's family issued any kind of public apology?

Not as far as I know. They didn't want to speak before the trial, and part of that was probably advice from Brittany's lawyers, which is advice I can't argue with even though I really wanted to speak with them. From what I know about her family, I think it's safe to say they probably feel about as horrible as anyone would feel in their situation -- for what happened, for the Murray's.

Did the police locate the size 14 shoes that Norwood had used to make the fake tracks?

They did. On Sunday, their second day in her story, they found the Size 14s in the store. The store used the shoes when men wanted to try on pants. Then the detectives figured out they shoes likely made the tracks. One of Brittany's early slip-ups in her store was that she told two of the detectives she knew where the shoes were -- knew where the detectives found them. Detective Dimitry Ruvin testified that kind of jolted him when he heard that. That was Monday night. Their case started on Saturday morning.

Didn't the defense do Brittany a diservice by not calling any witnesses? How could relying on opening/closing arguments be enough?

Her lawyers are good, and I think they were kind of stuck. The only witness they could have called to support their defense -- that it started as a fight and was non-premeditated murder -- was Brittany. She was the only one who could have known. But if they called Brittany to the stand, prosecutors could have cross-examined her on all her lies, and they could have done so for hours and hours.

Were any of the Lululemon employees asked about what they noticed as the relationship between Brittany and Jayna?

I think so. I think the general consesus was that they weren't real close. Brittany had only been at that store for about a month, maybe six weeks.

Thanks for your great coverage. I too am curious why the Lululemon manager whom Jayna called that night did not testify, but obviously it wasn't necessary. Just a curious reader who would like to know about that conversation. Regardless, I'm also curious how Norwood's parents reacted to the verdict?

It would have been hearsay. The manager would have been testifying to what someone else (Jayna) said. The judge wouldn't allow it. Prosecutors had another option for trying to get motive in -- a conversation Brittany had with one of her brothers, which was video recorded in a police interview room. But that conversation wasn't entirely clear, as far as what was being said.

Can you estimate the length of time that the sentencing process will take?

These hearings generally last from 1 to 3 hours. I think it will be close to the 3 hour end.

This is ridiculous. Her family had nothing to do with this crime.

I think you make a very good point.

Do you believe Norwood actually left her wallet at the store that night and a fight ensued, or did she lure Jayna back with the intent to kill?

This was certainly a point of debate in the trial. Prosecutors made a good argument: When detectives searched the crime scene, Brittany's wallet was in plain sight. So Brittany's claim that they looked for the wallet after they came back to the store didn't seem to make sense. But defense lawyers countered with this: If Brittany wanted to lure Jayna back to the store, why did she call another Lululemon employee that night just before to get Jayna's phone number? In other words, she left a trail of what she was doing. Perhaps it was somewhere in the middle: Brittany lured Jayna back to the store to try to talk her out of reporting the theft problem, and then Brittany decided to kill her. Even if the juror would have known all this, and come up with that middle-ground conclusion, they still could have convicted her of premeditated murder.

Have reporters been allowed/able to ask Norwood questions?

No. I wrote her in jail but never heard back.

I keep reading that Norwood "faces" life in prison without parole, but it seems like there are other possible outcomes. How possible is it that she'll get less than a life sentence?

Sorry. I could have been more clear. She faces a maximum of life in prison without the chance of parole. That's a category of sentencing in Maryland, often referred to as "life without." Her defense attorneys will try to get her a "life" sentence that has a chance at parole.

Thanks for all the good questions. I have to run out to cover a court hearing on a new case.

In This Chat
Dan Morse
Post staff writer Dan Morse covers crime and courts in Montgomery County. He arrived at the paper in 2005, after reporting stints at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He grew up in Urbana, Ill., earned a civil engineering degree from Vanderbilt and is married to Post staff writer Dana Hedgpeth.
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