The top prosecutor in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is asking the county council to allocate an additional $60,000 to help cover certain costs associated with the trial of Jarrod Ramos.
Ramos pleaded guilty last fall to killing five employees of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis in 2018.
The guilty plea came days before he was set to go on trial, but now Ramos is planning to argue that he was not criminally responsible because of mental illness.
Since then, an evaluation by a state psychiatrist had determined Ramos was sane during the attacks in June of 2018. However, an expert hired by the defense team has reached a different conclusion.
Separately, the state’s attorney’s office has used its own expert, Dr. Gregory Saathoff, a forensic psychiatrist kept on retainer by the FBI, to help them rebut the defense’s case.
But Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said the bureau allowed him to consult with the county on this particular case, “and we were not billed for his services during that time,” she said, adding that is due in part to the strong relationship that exists between the FBI and the police and prosecutors in the county.
But if Saathoff is able to take the stand during the not-criminally-responsible portion of the trial, the county will assume those costs.
“The way that expert witness fees work here … during the pre-charging and investigation portion of crimes, the expert fees for testing and analysis are generally born by the police department and the crime lab,” explained Colt Leitess.
“However, once a case is charged all court related expert testimony fees, travel and meal expenses are now born by the state’s attorney’s office alone.”
Colt Leitess also said that includes paying “their consulting and hourly fees and travel expenses during that time that they’re actually testifying during the trial.”
Ramos has met with both the state health department expert and the expert hired by his defense team.
Saathoff has been barred from meeting with Ramos one-on-one, though he is been able to look at the findings from the other doctors and he has interviewed others who have encountered Ramos since he was taken into custody.
Ramos’ lawyers say those actions violate his constitutional rights and should prohibit Saathoff from being able to testify in court.
The not-criminally-responsible portion phase of the trial, which sees the burden of proof shift to Ramos now, was originally set for June, but has since been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, as have pretrial hearings on Saathoff’s interviews and other matters.
Colt Leitess also told the Anne Arundel County Council that because Ramos ended up pleading guilty, the county didn’t have to put more than 50 police officers and first responders on standby to testify during the anticipated three-week trial.
“They would have been at least in court for perhaps a day or so, each of them, maybe longer,” Colt Leitess said.
“By him pleading guilty we avoided the overtime pay and taking those folks away from their jobs so that is a side benefit of that.”