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State v. Norris

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

March 3, 2016

STATE OF MAINE
v.
LEANNA M. NORRIS

         Argued February 11, 2016.

         On the briefs:

          Hunter J. Tzovarras, Esq., Bangor, for appellant Leanna M. Norris.

         Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Donald W. Macomber, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine.

         At oral argument:

         Hunter J. Tzovarras, Esq., for appellant Leanna M. Norris.

         Donald W. Macomber, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee State of Maine.

         Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          OPINION

         ALEXANDER, J.

          [¶1] Leanna M. Norris appeals from a judgment of conviction for murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(A) (2015), entered by the trial court (Penobscot County, A. Murray, J. ) after a jury-waived trial. There is no dispute that on June 23, 2013, Norris caused the death of her two-year-old daughter by giving her a large dose of diphenhydramine, commonly known as " Benadryl," and then by physically suffocating her. Following a dispute with the child's father, Norris formed a plan to cause her daughter's death, and over the course of approximately two hours drove from Auburn, to Waterville, to Palmyra, and to Newport, making stops along the way in furtherance of her plan and ultimately suffocating her daughter.

          [¶2] Norris contends that because she was suffering from major depressive disorder and other mental health problems when she caused her daughter's death, the trial court erred by (1) finding that she did not prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, her affirmative defense that she was not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disease or defect, see 17-A M.R.S. § § 39, 101(2) (2015); and (2) finding, beyond a reasonable doubt, that her actions in killing her daughter were intentional or knowing. Because it was the trial court's responsibility to decide the weight and sufficiency of the evidence, and the record demonstrates no clear error in the trial court's findings, we affirm.

         I. CASE HISTORY

          [¶3] The following facts are taken directly from the trial court's decision, and these facts, which the court found to have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, are supported by competent record evidence. See State v. Herzog, 2012 ME 73, ¶ ¶ 2, 13, 44 A.3d 307.

          [¶4] Norris, the child, and the child's father were living together at an apartment in Auburn. Between June 19 and June 23, 2013, Norris and the father had " argued, ended their relationship, resumed or attempted to resume their relationship, and then ended the relationship again." In the afternoon or evening of June 23, the father left the home. " Norris decided that she would suffocate [the child] and then kill herself, and she wanted to be near her parents' home when she did ...


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