On Thursday, a jury found the gunman responsible for the deaths
of five people
at a Maryland
newspaper, rejecting defense attorneys' mental illness
When Jarrod Ramos
attacked the Capital Gazette
newsroom in 2018, the jury of eight men and four women
determined that he could comprehend the criminality of his actions and conform his behavior to the requirements of the law.
Ramos, 41, will be sentenced to prison
rather than a maximum-security mental health
facility, according to the jury's decision; prosecutors are seeking five life sentences without the possibility of parole
Ramos had already pleaded guilty to all 23 counts against him in 2019, but had pleaded not criminally responsible — Maryland's equivalent of an insanity plea.
The second phase of his trial
was repeatedly postponed, most recently due to the pandemic
, and was largely a battle
between defense and prosecution mental health experts.
Ramos developed a long-standing resentment of the newspaper after an article it published in 2011 about his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of harassing a former high school
classmate. He filed a lawsuit
against the paper in 2012, alleging defamation
, but it was dismissed as groundless, and his appeals were denied.
Defense attorneys claimed Ramos had a delusional disorder, autism
, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and that he became consumed with the idea that the article had ruined his life as his defamation appeals failed, and that he came to believe there was a massive conspiracy
against him involving the courts and the newspaper.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, repeatedly criticized the defense's mental health evaluations, which were based primarily on interviews with Ramos and his sister.
Prosecutors claimed Ramos acted in retaliation for the article, and that his long, meticulous planning for the attack, as well as the manner in which he carried it out — including plans for arrest
and long incarceration — demonstrated that he understood the criminality of his actions and was able to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law.
They emphasized Ramos's call to 911 from the newsroom after the shooting
, identifying himself as the gunman and telling him he surrendered — evidence he clearly understood the criminality of his actions, and he was arrested while facedown under a newsroom desk.
The Anne Arundel County state's attorney, Anne Colt Leitess, stated that while Ramos suffers from personality disorders such as narcissism, he does not suffer from a serious mental illness that would have qualified him to be found not criminally responsible for five murders.
Ramos believed he was smarter than everyone else, and his repeated losses in court were “too much for him to bear
, so he started plotting his revenge,” according to Leitess. Ramos was also concerned that the article about him harassing his former classmate would make it difficult for him to get dates with women.
Leitess told the jury that he had planned to attack the building that houses the state's appellate courts, but changed his mind when he considered the police
security, and instead chose the soft target of the newspaper.
The trial began last month, three years and one day after the attack on June 28, 2018, that killed Wendi Winters, John McNamara
, Gerald Fischman
, Rob Hiaasen, and Rebecca Smith at the newspaper's office in a building complex in Maryland's capital city.
According to Maryland's insanity defense law, a defendant has the burden of proving that he is not criminally responsible for his actions by a preponderance of the evidence, which means defense attorneys had to demonstrate that Ramos is not criminally responsible is more likely than not.