ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The man who killed five people
at a Maryland
newspaper was delusional and believed the state's judicial system was conspiring with the Capital Gazette to persecute and ruin his life, his attorney told a jury Tuesday, arguing that Jarrod Ramos
is not criminally responsible for the crimes due to mental illness.
Hours later, jurors saw photographs of the dead from shotgun blasts in their own newsroom: Wendi Winters collapsed in a hallway after charging Ramos with a trash can; Gerald Fischman
crumpled under his desk; Rob Hiaasen dead in his cubicle; and John McNamara
dead at the back of the newsroom. Rebecca Smith died later at a hospital
They also saw body
camera footage of Ramos emerging from under a desk in the newsroom and being led out by police
The second phase of Ramos's trial
began three years and one day after the attack
on the newspaper, after he pleaded guilty – but not criminally responsible – to the June 28, 2018 slayings, using Maryland's version of an insanity defense.
Ramos' lawyer, Katy O'Donnell, told jurors that her client "is guilty of having committed these offenses, and his act was willful, deliberate, and premeditated." However, she added, mental health
experts for the defense will tell them that he is not criminally responsible under the law due to mental illness.
Mr. Ramos is guilty, but he is not criminally responsible, according to O'Donnell.
Ramos believed he was being persecuted on purpose, according to O'Donnell, after the newspaper published an article about a case in which he pleaded guilty to harassing a former high school
classmate, and he also believed the courts were unfairly rejecting his defamation
case against the newspaper.
O'Donnell told the jury that the jury will hear testimony about Ramos' own description of the events as they unfolded on the day of the shooting
, as well as "an eight-year backstory" leading up to the attack.
“We want you to understand the years leading up to this day,” O’Donnell said, “because Mr. Ramos does not believe what he did was wrong.”
According to O'Donnell, jurors will also hear from mental health experts who evaluated Ramos and determined he is mentally ill, as well as doctors who will testify that Ramos is autistic, as well as having obsessive compulsive disorder, delusional disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.
O'Donnell explained to the jury Maryland's insanity defense law, which states that a defendant is not criminally responsible for criminal conduct if he lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct due to a mental disorder or developmental disabilities.
A defendant has the burden of proving that he is not criminally responsible for his actions by a preponderance of the evidence.
The state's attorney for Anne Arundel County, Anne Colt Leitess, has postponed her opening statement until the defense has presented its case.
During a cross-examination of a county detective who investigated the case in the afternoon, Leitess began delving into the depth of planning that Ramos put into the attack.
She requested that the detective show jurors a device known as a barracuda, which Ramos used to barricade a back door, preventing the victims from escaping the newsroom.
Leitess also questioned Anne Arundel County Det. Jason DiPietro about a CD Ramos sent to the author of the article about him in the newspaper that enraged him, which included his plans to attack the newsroom on a day when he expected a community meeting with people from outside the newsroom to be present, as well as his plans to make "orphans" of a woman's children
. The meeting had been canceled that day.
Leitess also inquired about Ramos' purchase of a lifetime membership to the United States
Chess Federation four days before the shooting, in preparation for a lengthy incarceration, after police intercepted a letter he wrote to the federation in the hopes of having chess materials sent to the detention center where he was confined.
Mental health witnesses will also testify for the prosecution.
Dr. Sameer Patel, a psychiatrist with the state Health Department who evaluated Ramos, determined that he was legally sane, and prosecutors intend to call Dr. Gregory Saathoff, a forensic psychiatrist and a chief consultant for the FBI
who has also determined that Ramos is legally sane.
This trial phase has been repeatedly postponed, in part due to the coronavirus pandemic
. Opening statements began one day after the third anniversary
of the killings.
If Ramos is found not to be criminally responsible, he will be committed to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital rather than prison
; prosecutors are seeking life in prison with no chance of parole
Ramos, 41, had a well-documented history
of harassing the newspaper's journalists
, and his 2012 lawsuit
, in which he claimed the paper defamed him by writing about his harassment conviction, was dismissed as unfounded.