Defense calls for potential recusal of prosecutor in Capital Gazette murder trial

The defense attorneys for Jarrod Ramos, the man accused of gunning down five employees of the Capital Gazette, accused prosecutors during a Thursday hearing of withholding information that would help Ramos’ plea of not being criminally responsible.

Defense attorneys said Brennan McCarthy, a lawyer who represented a woman Ramos was convicted of harassing years ago, told police that he believed Ramos was “crazy” the day of the June 2018 shooting.

McCarthy testified at the pretrial hearing in Annapolis on Thursday, telling Judge Laura Ripken that he is not a mental health expert and did not mean to use the word literally when he was describing Ramos.

McCarthy said he was afraid for himself and his sister, attorney Kathleen Kirchner, due to statements Ramos made on social media. Public defender William Davis argued that meant McCarthy knew about Ramos’ mental state and that he had kept tabs on Ramos.

“You don’t follow the devil,” McCarthy said. “You hide from him.”

The defense accused Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess and her staff of holding back emails, which included a complaint Leitess received in 2015 from Kirchner.

Leitess said the defense’s claim was “without merit.”

Leitess was also accused of not disclosing social media posts by Ramos that they had in their possession, and of not being forthcoming about interacting with Ramos online years before the Capital Gazette Shooting, before blocking his account.

The prosecution pointed out a tweet indicating that Leitess blocked Ramos is in the defense’s evidence and that social media posts are public and available to anyone.

The sanctions recommended by the defense include the potential of Leitess recusing herself from the case. The defense said Leitess could possibly become a witness in Ramos’ murder trial, as well.

Defense attorneys also have been seeking more information from Kirchner.

Kirchner’s husband, Richard Kirchner is a professional threat assessor and looked into Ramos when McCarthy asked Kathleen to represent him in a lawsuit brought on by Ramos. Ramos took McCarthy and the woman he represented to court after McCarthy helped her get a protection order against him.

Richard Kirchner said his assessment of Ramos was done orally, and there is no written document.

After the hearing, McCarthy recalled what Richard Kirchner said after looking into Ramos and his social media postings.

McCarthy said Richard Kirchner told him, “‘Brennan, he’s gonna kill you. He’s been on your street. He knows where you live.’ He said you need to get out of this as fast as possible, and Kathleen you’re not to be involved.”

Richard Kirchner described Ramos as “a classic wound collector,” amassing grievances against people. He described Ramos as being similar to other mass shooters.

“I would absolutely put him in those levels,” he told reporters during a break in Thursday’s court hearing.

It was the Capital Gazette’s coverage of Ramos’ harassment case (around 2009 or early 2010) in which he pleaded guilty to stalking a woman that led to his anger with the newspaper.

He filed a defamation suit against the newspaper in 2012 that was thrown out as groundless, and he often railed against the media outlet in profanity-laced tweets.

Ramos entered a plea of not criminally responsible at an earlier hearing; now it is up to his attorneys to prove that a mental disorder led to the killings.

The defense subpoenaed McCarthy for his records when he represented the woman Ramos stalked. McCarthy said that he does not have much and would not reveal attorney-client privileged information.

In the end, Judge Ripken only required that McCarthy hand over non-privileged information, which she would then review to see if it should be a part of the case.

Ripken also granted a protection order for the woman McCarthy represented regarding the subpoena she received from the defense.

While arguing against handing over any additional information for the murder case, McCarthy accused the defense of “harassing him” and “fishing around to find something that is going to make this case.”

In a green jump suit, Ramos would at times look toward the back of the courtroom and, according to McCarthy, at one point Ramos’ eyes locked on him.

“He’s staring at us, staring, just following us around the courtroom and it was … it is really chilling to be near him,” McCarthy said.

The judge said she would give a decision on the sanctions and begin discussions about jury selection at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 2. Ramos’ murder trial is set to begin in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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