- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Attorneys for the woman charged in the killing of a co-worker at a Bethesda yoga store failed Tuesday to persuade a judge to delay the trial so they could learn more about their client’s “major mental illness,” including whether concussions she may have suffered as a collegiate soccer player were a factor.

“We need more record gathering,” attorney Harry Trainor Jr. said. “We need all of her classes and educational records. We need employment records, and we need to collaborate interviews with people she played sports with. This is a person who played soccer at a very high level, and that involves impacts to the head. We have to look at history of concussions.”

Their client, D.C. resident Brittany Norwood is charged with first-degree murder in the March killing of store manager Jayna Murray. Ms. Norwood, 29, told police that she and Murray were robbed and assaulted by two masked men after they closed the Bethesda Row store.

Days later, however, she was charged when crime scene evidence and other information failed to substantiate her story.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John J. McCarthy argued Tuesday against the defense team’s request for postponing the trial’s start from Oct. 24 until at least February, saying he doubted Ms. Norwood “took too many headers” and now there are psychiatric issues.

He has also dismissed the argument by saying Ms. Norwood laid out an extensive alibi — including spreading Murray’s blood in the store and saying she was raped by the assailants and bound with zipties — to appear as a victim, too, even asking an investigator how Murray, a 30-year-old Arlington resident, was doing shortly after police arrived at the scene.

“Mental health issues are not like light switches,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Robert A. Greenberg also rejected the argument and instead gave the defense team until Sept. 12 to file a not-criminally-responsible plea and reveal the name of their mental health specialist, who has been described only as a man who works at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

The judge also questioned why the defense team waited five months between the first two medical assessments and the third one a week ago to pose the so-called insanity plea.

“I don’t see why you couldn’t have had the opinion earlier,” he said.

Attorneys will be back in court Friday for a motions hearing, which includes the defense’s attempt to omit several of Ms. Norwood’s statements to investigators.

Arguments among the attorneys and Judge Greenberg on Tuesday were fierce at times, including a minor battle that Mr. McCarthy lost when he attempted to play five minutes of an interview between a police officer and Ms. Norwood.

The courtroom fell silent when the prosecutor read a letter from Murray’s family.

“We anticipated honoring Jayna’s birthday on Nov. 22 with a sense of peace,” said Mr. McCarthy, reading from the letter. He added that the family worried that the trial, their “greatest single hurdle,” would be pushed back after the holidays, causing further emotional and financial stress.

“Every single day is a struggle,” Mr. McCarthy continued. “We desperately want this trial to be over.”

Murray’s brother, Hugh, and his wife were at the hearing. Ms. Norwood’s parents, brother and sister were also in attendance.

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