Judge rules out most gruesome photos of slain Murray for opening arguments
(AP, ABC7) - A judge has limited the use of graphic photographs that prosecutors may show in opening statements in the trial of a woman charged with killing a co-worker at a yoga clothing shop in Bethesda.
Jury selection is expected to conclude Wednesday in the case of Brittany Norwood, who is charged with fatally bludgeoning co-worker Jayna Murray on March 11 inside the Lululemon Athletica store.
Opening statements will be given after jury selection. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Robert Greenberg restricted prosecutors' use of certain pictures during opening statements, including one showing Murray's crushed skull.
He said other pictures, including one showing Norwood as she was found inside the shop after police were called as well as photos of her hand and forehead, were permissible. In total, Greenberg allowed five photos of Murray to be shown during opening statements. Defense attorneys had argued that the photos of killed Jayna Murray are overly prejudicial.
Some of the images ruled out by the judge for opening arguments could be shown at a later time during the trail. For instance, the medical examiner could show talk photos from Murray’s autopsy.
However, the judge expressed concern that the jury could be swayed if shown those photos right at the start of the trial and thus ruled them out for the opening arguments.
Jayna Murray's college roommate Ivy Huang came to court Tuesday. She said her and Murray remained close over the years.
“I hope that something good comes out of it, it’s going to be some time for that and I do grieve not just for my friend's family but as well as the other because it was a horrible thing that happened,” Huang said.
Jury selection in the trial began Monday but proved difficult, partly because the intense media attention on the case made it hard to find impartial jurors to ensure a fair trial.
About 150 potential jurors were asked whether any had already made up their mind. Thirty-eight stood up, essentially a yes-response to the question. Only 18 had never heard of the slaying.
Prosecutors allege the two women argued after closing hours after Murray found suspected stolen merchandise inside Norwood's bag. They say Norwood tried to conceal the killing by telling police the next morning that both women had been attacked inside the shop by two masked men.
Criminal defense attorney Steven Kupferberg is not involved with the Norwood trial but has handled many high profile cases. He says the judge has rightfully brought in more than 300 potential jurors, from which 12 and five alternates will be chosen.
"It's very difficult in any case if there's been publicity to put aside what you've heard or learned,” Kupferberg said.
"Maybe they should have moved it further away where they can get more of an impartial jury that didn't hear all the media coverage” mused Kim Gordon, who lives in Montgomery County.
Opening arguments could begin Wednesday in that trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court that is expected to last about two weeks. Prosecutors intend to seek a punishment of life without parole if Norwood is convicted of first-degree murder.