Lawyers don’t seek trial delay in newspaper shooting case

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Attorneys for a man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper said Friday they will not seek a delay at this time for the second phase of his trial to determine whether he is not criminally responsible due to insanity for the attack nearly three years ago.

Lawyers representing Jarrod Ramos were given a Friday deadline by Judge Michael Wachs to request a postponement based on any objections they had to the COVID-19 protocols that are expected to be in place for the jury trial, which is set to begin in June.

While attorneys are not now seeking a delay, they said they objected to some of the precautions that the judge said would likely be in effect.

For example, attorneys object to see-through barriers between Ramos and his lawyers that they say will impede their ability to talk to him during the proceedings.

“Defense counsel objects and awaits the court’s definitive ruling and is not asking for a postponement based upon this issue at this time,” attorneys Elizabeth Palan, Katy O’Donnell and Matthew Connell wrote.

They also objected to being required to wear a mask during opening and closing statements. The court said attorneys could use a rolling framed piece of Plexiglass placed 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6 meters) away from the jury with a podium and wear a face shield.

Attorneys are opposed to a phone line that will enable people to listen to the proceedings without a record of who was doing so. The judge said during a pretrial hearing this week that he was unlikely to get rid of it.

Lawyers also objected to attorneys needing to be prepared to step in and take over another attorney’s role if someone becomes ill, though they wrote they were satisfied as of now because the issue is not before the court.

Attorneys objected to a proposed limit of 40 people in the courtroom, which would provide for only a limited number of people beyond the parties and court personnel, though the issue of public access is still being discussed.

The attorneys also noted that they were satisfied with how the judge addressed a variety of other concerns they raised. For example, they were concerned about requiring Ramos to wear a mask, because of the importance of jurors being able to observe him. Wachs said the matter could be resolved by Ramos wearing a clear plastic mask.

Protocols have been ordered by the state’s chief judge to avoid the spread of COVID-19 during court proceedings. During a hearing Tuesday, Wachs said his jurisdiction has had 26 jury trials during the pandemic.

“I believe we have a good system in place,” Wachs said.

Wachs, who took over the case earlier this year after the previous judge was appointed to a higher court, said the court plans to send out 300 court summonses to potential jurors. They are to be called to fill out a questionnaire at the courthouse in Annapolis, Maryland, for the high-profile case.

The summonses will be sent out Monday, said Terri Charles, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Judiciary.

Ramos, 41, pleaded guilty in October 2019 to all 23 counts he faced in connection with the attack on the Capital Gazette newsroom that killed John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith.

Ramos held a longtime grudge against the newspaper, which had written about Ramos pleading guilty to harassing a former high school classmate in 2011. Ramos unsuccessfully sued the writer and the newspaper’s publisher for defamation.

If Ramos were found not criminally responsible, he would be committed to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital instead of prison.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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