- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Montgomery County jury on Wednesday evening found Brittany Norwood guilty of first-degree murder in the horrific slaying of her co-worker at the Lululemon Athletica store in Bethesda.

The six-day trial, which detailed a vicious killing and the dramatic twists and turns of an investigation into an elaborate cover story and a morbidly staged crime scene, ended with the jury presenting its verdict close to 7 p.m. after a little more than an hour of deliberation.

As the verdict was read Wednesday night, an audible “yes” could be heard from the family of the victim, Jayna Murray.

“I want no other family to go through this,” Murray’s mother, Phyllis Murray, said in the foyer to the Montgomery County courthouse afterwards. “The brutality was undescribable.”

Norwood’s family remained silent when the verdict was read. They declined to comment.

Judge Robert A. Greenberg instructed the jury to decide first whether Norwood was guilty of first-degree murder, which requires jurors to believe the crime was premeditated. The guilty verdict on that charge means Norwood faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when she is sentenced Jan. 27.

“That is precisely the sentence we will be seeking from Judge Greenberg at that time,” State’s Attorney John McCarthy said.

If the jury could not agree on first-degree murder, they were told they could convict Norwood on a lesser second-degree murder charge.

Afterward, one juror said the six-man, six-woman panel agreed immediately on the first-degree murder conviction.

“I asked who thought it was first-degree, and everybody’s hand just went up,” said juror Donny Knepper, a 36-year-old criminal defense lawyer.

Norwood’s defense attorney, Douglas Wood, said the Norwood family was disappointed with the verdict.

“I thought I established a pretty good case for second-degree murder,” Mr. Wood said after the verdict was delivered.

Asked about his strategy, admitting in opening statements that his client killed the victim and calling no witnesses in her favor, Mr. Wood said Norwood was “fine with our defense.”

“You deal with the evidence and you put on your best defense,” he said.

In closing arguments, Mr. Wood seized on the fact the prosecution has been unable to discuss any possible motive in the March killing as evidence Norwood did not plan to kill Murray.

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