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Norred v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

June 1, 2015


Murder. Clarke Superior Court. Before Judge Sweat.

Judgment affirmed.

John W. Donnelly, for appellant.

Kenneth W. Mauldin, District Attorney, Jon R. Forwood, Assistant District Attorney; Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Matthew B. Crowder, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

BENHAM, Justice. All the Justices concur.


Benham, Justice.

A jury found appellant Richard P. Norred guilty but mentally ill for the shooting death of his sister Leigh Pope, the attempted murders of his sister Amy Norred Lefebvre and of his mother Carol Norred, and related crimes.[1] Appellant alleges on

Page 235

appeal that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdicts. For reasons set forth below, we affirm.

The facts, which are undisputed, showed that on the afternoon in question, appellant's mother and sisters were having lunch at their [297 Ga. 235] parents' house when appellant walked into the room and shot his sister Leigh in the head killing her, and shot at and injured his mother and his sister Amy. Amy called 911, but dropped the telephone. Appellant pointed the gun at his infant niece Haley Pope. When Amy begged him not to shoot the child, appellant stated, " problem's not with you anyway," and then appellant walked away toward his mother. Amy ran with Haley and the telephone, locked herself in a nearby bathroom along with her son who was already in there, and again contacted authorities. While his mother was lying injured on the floor, appellant had a conversation with her indicating he was upset about some incidents that occurred during his childhood. Appellant then locked all the doors to the house and retreated to an upstairs bathroom where he shot himself, but was not fatally wounded. That is where police found him.

The evidence also showed that appellant had a history of mental difficulties and was diagnosed over the course of his life as having various disorders including attention deficit disorder, childhood schizophrenia, and Asperger's disorder. After graduating from high school, appellant did not move out of his parents' house and he refused to learn to drive or to work. Appellant was twenty-seven at the time of the incident. In the months leading up to the shooting, he became more withdrawn from his family members. He spent his nights playing video games on the computer[2] and his days sleeping or watching television. The gun appellant used during the incident was a gun owned by his father. Appellant's father testified that he never told appellant about the gun, never showed appellant the gun, and had the gun hidden in a drawer in the bedroom he shared with appellant's mother. Appellant's mother testified that appellant had been eavesdropping on recent conversations and that his sisters were fearful that he was becoming more aggressive.

At trial, appellant raised an insanity defense and proffered expert testimony in that regard. Appellant's sole enumeration of error on appeal is that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdict of guilty but mentally ill. Rather, appellant contends that the only verdict supported by the evidence was that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. We disagree.

Under Georgia law, a person is insane, and shall not be guilty of a crime, if at the time of the act, omission, or negligence constituting the crime, the person did not have [297 Ga. 236] mental capacity to distinguish between right and wrong in relation to the criminal act or acted because of a delusional compulsion which overmastered his will to resist committing the crime. OCGA § § 16-3-2, 16-3-3; [cit.]. A defendant claiming insanity has the burden of proving the defense by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. Because Georgia law presumes every person is of sound mind and discretion, criminal trials begin with the rebuttable presumption that the defendant is sane and this presumption is evidence. OCGA § 16-2-3; [cit.].

Durrence v. State, 287 Ga. 213 (1) (a) (695 S.E.2d 227) (2010). Where the defense presents evidence in support of a defense of insanity, a jury is authorized to reject such evidence. See Choisnet v. State, 295 Ga. 568 (1) (761 S.E.2d 322) (2014). On appeal, we determine

whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdicts, a rational trier of fact could have found that [appellant] failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was insane at

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the time of the crimes, and whether the State met its burden of proving he was guilty, but mentally ill, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hudson v. State, 273 Ga. 124 (1) (538 S.E.2d 751) (2000).

Here, appellant's expert witness, Dr. Matt Butryn, conducted a forensic psychological examination of appellant and diagnosed appellant as having major depressive disorder, Asperger's disorder, and schizoid personality disorder. Dr. Butryn opined that, at the time of the shooting, appellant had a diminished capacity for distinguishing between right and wrong and that he was delusional insofar as he believed that his family members were hiding things from him and that " the world" was out to " get" him. Dr. Butryn also stated, however, that appellant was not under any delusion that his mother or sisters were doing anything that placed him in fear for his life.

The court-appointed psychologist, Dr. Deborah Gunnin, also testified at trial during the State's presentation of rebuttal evidence. Like Dr. Butryn, Dr. Gunnin concluded that appellant had Asperger's disorder. She opined, however, that, despite having Asperger's disorder, appellant knew right from wrong and was not suffering from any delusional compulsion that overmastered his will to resist committing the crime against his family members. As an example of appellant's knowing right from wrong, Dr. Gunnin noted that appellant told her he locked the house doors in the aftermath of the incident [297 Ga. 237] because he believed the police would be coming, indicating he understood the wrongfulness of his actions. She also opined that the fact that appellant resisted shooting the infant indicated he was not suffering from any delusion that overmastered his will.

The evidence adduced at trial and summarized above was sufficient to authorize a rational trier of fact to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, appellant guilty but mentally ill of the crimes for which he was convicted. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979); Foster v. State, 283 Ga. 47 (1) (656 S.E.2d 838) (2008). Dr. Gunnin testified that appellant knew right from wrong and that his Asperger's disorder did not impact his ability to discern right from wrong. Although Dr. Butryn opined that appellant was delusional, appellant presented no evidence that he was suffering from a delusion that " if it had been true, would have justified [his] actions." (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Alvelo v. State, 290 Ga. 609 (724 S.E.2d 377) (2012). See also Hudson v. State, supra, 273 Ga. at 125. The trial court did not err when it entered judgment on the jury's verdicts. Alvelo v. State, supra, 290 Ga. at 613.

Judgment affirmed. All the Justices concur.

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