Jury begins deliberations in Md. yoga shop slaying

November 2, 2011 - 5:55 PM

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — A woman charged with killing a co-worker at a high-end suburban Washington yoga clothing shop was either a calculating, ruthless murderer or a delusional person who snapped in a sudden violent impulse, according to dueling accounts of the crime presented to jurors Wednesday.

No one disputes that Brittany Norwood killed Jayna Murray inside their Lululemon Athletica shop in Bethesda. The only question for the jury after the weeklong trial is whether the March 11 killing was premeditated, making it first-degree murder.

That distinction is crucial because Norwood could face life in prison without parole if convicted of that charge. A second-degree murder conviction in Maryland carries a maximum 30-year sentence.

A Montgomery County jury began deliberating Wednesday evening after hearing closing arguments.

State's Attorney John McCarthy told jurors during closing arguments that there was abundant evidence of premeditation. He said Norwood lured Murray back to the store after closing by saying she had forgotten her wallet and needed to get back inside.

He said however long the attack occurred, there was enough time for Murray to plead for mercy — workers at the next-door store heard the women loudly arguing — and for Norwood to grab at least five different weapons inside the store to use against her victim. Prosecutors say Norwood used a knife, wrench, merchandise peg and other instruments to bludgeon Murray.

"This crime took an enormous amount of time, and there were dozens of opportunities — multiple times — when she could have stopped this," McCarthy said.

He said Norwood was cunning enough to doctor the crime scene. She cut herself, bound her hands together and cut a slit at the crotch of her pants.

When police arrived the next morning, a dazed Norwood told police that she had been sexually assaulted with a coat hanger and that she and Murray had been attacked by two men who robbed the store. Detectives testified that they initially believed Norwood until her story began unraveling. She was arrested a week after the killing.

Norwood's lawyer, Douglas Wood, said it was ridiculous to think the killing was premeditated because her narrative was so inconsistent and riddled with holes. If she were so methodical, he said, she would have left the store after the killing instead of sticking around to stage the scene. And he said it defied reason for her to claim she had been raped when an examination swiftly debunked that accusation.

"Is that the story of someone who is cunning?" Wood asked incredulously. "That's the story of someone who is the exact opposite of cunning. That's the story of someone who is delusional, lost."

Wood said Norwood simply snapped during a horrific fight with Murray. A judge's ruling prevented both sides from discussing the fight, but prosecutors have previously said it began after suspected stolen merchandise was found during a search of Norwood's bag.

A medical examiner, Mary Ripple, testified that she found at least 331 wounds on Murray's body and that the woman was alive during the duration of the attack.