Three years after Jarrod Ramos burst into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, and shot and killed five people, a jury found him criminally responsible for killing Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiassen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters, and he was given multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Follow WTOP’s coverage of Ramos’ sentencing and the trial as it happened.
Life without parole for Capital Gazette gunman; family of victims share ‘never-ending’ grief
The Capital Gazette gunman, who killed five people in a shooting rampage inside the Annapolis, Maryland, newsroom three years ago — and who argued, in a trial earlier this summer, he should go to a mental hospital and not to prison — has been sentenced to five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Jarrod Ramos, 41, was handed the maximum sentence possible by Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs at a sentencing hearing Tuesday that followed a dozen emotionally wrenching statements from family members of the journalists Ramos killed or sought to kill.
Before handing down the sentence, the judge called Ramos’ crime a “cold blooded, calculated attack on the innocent employees of a small town newspaper.”
Ramos’ June 2018 rampage killed editors Gerald Fischman and Rob Hiaasen; sports reporter John McNamara; sales assistant Rebecca Smith; and community reporter Wendi Winters.
The judge noted the bravery and “fortitude” of the newspaper staff, who worked to put out an edition of the paper the day after the attack while their newsroom was a still a bloodied crime scene.
“The defendant did not get the final say; the First Amendment and the community got the final say,” Wachs said before handing down his sentence.
In addition to the five life sentences with no chance of parole, Ramos’ punishment also included a life sentence for the attempted murder of a Capital Gazette employee who fled the gunfire; 25 years in prison for first-degree assault of the remaining five survivors of the attack; and 20 years each for 11 counts of use of a firearm in a crime of violence.
At the sentencing hearing Tuesday, a total of 12 family members of the victims and those who survived the massacre gave victim-impact statements, walking up one-by-one to a lectern in the courtroom, just steps away from the convicted killer and addressed the judge.
Judy Hiaasen, the older sister of Rob Hiaasen, her voice breaking with emotion, described being jolted by memories of her younger brother. She said, “There is no way to predict how much more there is to lose when that loss will always be right around any corner … It all comes back.”
She said she has suffered other losses in her life.
“The arc of that grief in those situations is different,” she said. “My little brother was slaughtered and the impact of that loss is indescribable. It is unique. And it is never-ending.”
Andrea Chamblee, the widow of John McNamara, recounted their plans to eventually retire, recalling how they began every morning asking their Alexa smart-speaker how many days it would be until she turned 60. On the day he was murdered, it was 1,008 — two years and nine months.
“It was in sight, we could almost touch it,” she said.
Since her husband’s killing, she said she has discovered a “super power” in becoming an advocate for gun safety legislation and noted the many accolades her late husband received.
Still, she said, “He’s gone, and he deserved to be here.”
Summerleigh Winters Geimer and Montana Winters Geimer, who were both in their 20s when their mother was gunned down, also spoke.
Summerleigh Geimer remembered being at work and hearing about the shooting in June 2018. “After only one unanswered phone call, I knew that she was dead,” she said.
She pledged, “The legend of Wendi Winters will live on forever,” referring to the fact that her mother charged the gunman with a trash can after he blasted his way into the newsroom. Still, the well-known community reporter in whose honor an annual blood drive is now held will always be “Mommy” to her, she said.
Cynthia Rittenour, the younger sister of Rebecca Smith, recalled idolizing her older sister growing up. When she graduated six months after the shooting, she said, “Instead of having her there, I had to carry her ashes in my pocket.”
Erica Fischman, the widow of Gerald Fischman, recalled a husband who loved classical music and had a prized home library. When he was buried, she tucked a small copy of the Constitution in his pocket, hopeful, she said, that justice would prevail.
“There is one big difference between a good and an evil man,” she said. “Everyone loves to remember a good man. But the evil man is forgotten soon after. No one is going to remember him.”
Ramos pleaded guilty in October 2019 to five counts of first-degree murder, among other charges, but also pleaded “not criminally responsible” — Maryland’s version of an insanity defense.
That triggered a three-week trial this summer, during which Ramos’ lawyers argued he was beset by delusions before blasting into the newsroom with a shotgun.
The jury rejected that argument — deliberating for less than two hours — before returning a verdict that Ramos was criminally responsible for the shooting attack.
Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, who later called the case “the most egregious that our county has ever seen,” argued Ramos carried out a cold-blooded act of revenge after the newspaper reported on his 2011 harassment conviction and he lost a defamation lawsuit.
Prosecutor: Sought maximum sentence
Ahead of the sentencing, Leitess asked the judge to make clear in his sentence that Ramos never be released from prison.
She pointed to the lack of remorse he’d expressed in interviews with a court-ordered psychiatrist, which was presented as evidence in his sanity trial, in which he said the only regret he had was not killing more people.
He also said if by some miracle he was released from prison, he would kill more people.
Leitess said the shooting rampage was the “culmination of a lifetime of bullying acts” and that, as a narcissist, Ramos was driven into a rage, first when a former high school classmate rejected his advances and filed harassment charges against him and later when he lost a defamation case against The Capital, which had reported his conviction.
“The only way for him to feel better about himself after losing two lawsuits was to hurt others,” Leitess said.
She said later, “He likes to make people pay, but now it’s time for him to pay.”
Defense: No request for leniency
In a brief statement to the judge before the sentence was handed down, defense attorney Katy O’Donnell, with Maryland Office of the Public Defender, said Ramos had instructed his attorneys not to ask for leniency.
She suggested signs of Ramos’ erratic behavior, including bizarre legal filings he made in his lawsuits and threats posted to Twitter, were missed that could have possibly stopped the shooting.
O’Donnell also referred back to testimony during the sanity trial, at which a psychiatrist for the defense testified that the only meaningful connection Ramos had in the years leading up to the shooting was with his cat, which died about a month before the attack.
Each time the cat was mentioned during the trial, O’Donnell said Tuesday, Ramos began to cry.
“I don’t know if Your Honor could see that, but I saw that,” O’Donnell said to the judge. “That response is significant in trying to understand what’s going on with this individual.”
Prosecutor recalls staring down gunman
Reacting to the judge’s decision, Leitess told reporters outside the courthouse Tuesday, “Justice was served.”
Ahead of the sentencing, her office requested the maximum penalty, and that’s just what was handed down.
“I wanted the judge to make clear what his intentions were, and the judge was crystal clear that Jarrod Ramos should never be allowed to walk out of prison,” she said.
Of the convicted mass shooter, she said, “He thought he had the last word as he left the courtroom. He tried to stare me down. But that didn’t work either, because I looked right back at him. He did not have the last word. The judge had the last word. The community had the last word. All of us here have the last word. He thinks that he won. He didn’t win. He hurt people but he did not win. ”
Regarding the dozen family members who gave statements in court, she said: “I think all of us have gone through some kind of pain in our lives, but until you are standing up in court describing what it’s like to be the spouse of a murdered person or the child of a murdered person, you don’t really know what grief is,” she said. “And I think we saw what grief is.”
The family members are “resilient,” she said. “They are living. They’re going on and living their lives and that’s their legacy, not that a person tried to destroy the newspaper and destroy people.”
Ramos has 30 days to file a written notice of appeal.
Verdict: Jury finds Capital Gazette gunman criminally responsible
Capital Gazette gunman Jarrod Ramos has been found criminally responsible for the June 2018 newsroom mass shooting that killed five people, all but ensuring the 41-year-old will spend the rest of his life in prison for an attack the lead prosecutor called “the most egregious case that our county has ever seen.”
The jury, made up of eight men and four women, deliberated for less than two hours.
The verdict, which came shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, followed a tensely litigated three-week trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that featured dozens of witnesses, eight mental health experts and wrenching testimony from survivors of the attack.
As the jury foreman read out the verdict, there was an audible, simultaneous exhale from survivors of the shooting and the relatives of the victims who had packed one side of the fourth-floor courtroom, many wearing red, along with a few quiet sobs.
Ramos, who opted to wear a dark cloth face mask and a jail jumpsuit during the course of the three-week trial, did not appear to have a visible reaction to the verdict. Afterward, he was seen scribbling notes and conferring with one of his defense attorneys.
If the jury had found Ramos not criminally responsible, he would have been sent to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital instead of prison.
In the hallway outside the courtroom after the jury delivered the verdict, Anne Colt Leitess, the Anne Arundel County state’s attorney, and David Russell, assistant state’s attorney, were greeted with a small round of applause from relatives and survivors, who huddled around the two prosecutors. Leitess acknowledged their pain but said she hoped the jury’s verdict provided time for “a little bit of healing.”
Some of the exiting jurors were also greeted with applause.
In a news conference outside the courthouse following the verdict, Leitess attributed the quick verdict to the strength of the state’s case, which consisted of rebutting defense attorneys’ contention that Ramos was beset by delusions at the time of the attack involving a conspiracy about the Capital Gazette and the Maryland court system. The Annapolis newspaper had reported on a 2011 harassment case, and he had unsuccessfully sued for defamation.
“Even though he may have had a mild personality disorder, he knew what he was doing … and I think the jury saw that,” Leitess said.
Leitess said Ramos was motivated by revenge and sought to make the case a “farce” and a “media circus.”
“He attempted that but he did not get that,” she added. “The fact that the jury came back in just two hours shows that they rejected all of his games that he attempted to play. He wanted this trial for his amusement and he didn’t get it.”
- ‘Three hard years’ — prosecutors, families react to Ramos verdict
- Past, present members of Capital Gazette staff react to Ramos verdict
- ‘They’re neighbors:’ Maryland leaders react to Capital Gazette shooting verdict
Leitess said she had a chance to speak with alternate jurors and she said they pointed to the strength of the prosecution’s final witness, Dr. Sameer Patel, the court-ordered psychiatrist, who had concluded Ramos was criminally responsible. The report laid out nearly two dozen carefully articulated reasons showing, at the time of the killings. Ramos understood what he was doing was criminally wrong and that he could have stopped himself.
In disturbing detail, Patel also described the apparent pleasure Ramos took in his violent act, saying, “There’s no mental disorder that accounts for that.”
During her remarks, Leitess also took a moment to praise the first responders and police who responded to the Capital suite at 888 Bestgate Road on June 28, 2018, encountering the shattered glass doors of the newsroom Ramos had shot out and their desperate attempts to help sales assistant Rebecca Smith, who was grievously wounded and later died at a hospital.
Leitess said she didn’t call some first responders to testify during the trial because they are still too traumatized by the events of that day.
Of the convicted killer, she said, “Having him held responsible here in our community means everything.”
Following Leitess’ remarks, relatives of the victims and survivors gathered in front of the cameras outside the courthouse.
Andrea Chamblee, the widow of shooting victim John McNamara, said, “I think when people talk about the five victims of this violent crime, you can look around and see there’s a lot more than five. … There are a lot of people who couldn’t be here today because they have to choke on their own words when they talk about this horrific crime.”
John San Felice, the father of a shooting survivor, thanked the prosecutors and police and said the trial proved Ramos was “a monster who needs to be put away permanently.”
“Three hard years,” he said, his voice breaking. “Three hard years we’ve suffered, and they put an end to our suffering.”
The verdict caps years of contested, contentious legal proceedings and an extensive delay when the Maryland court system was shuttered due to coronavirus restrictions.
Ramos pleaded guilty in October 2019 to 23 felony counts related to the shooting, including five counts of first-degree murder. However, he pleaded not criminally responsible — Maryland’s version of an insanity plea — citing mental illness.
Ramos faces several life sentences in the attack, including several sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In the courtroom after the jury delivered its verdict, Judge Michael Wachs said he planned to sentence Ramos in early September.
Ramos has 10 days to file a motion for a new trial.
“Do you understand that, Mr. Ramos?” Wachs asked, after the jury had filed out of the room.
Ramos, behind his mask, sat stone-faced.
“No response,” Wachs noted.
WTOP’s Rick Massimo and John Domen contributed to this report.
Jury begins deliberations
After several hours of closing arguments, the jury has begun deliberation in Capital Gazette Gunman Jarrod Ramos’ insanity trial. The jury’s verdict will determine whether Ramos, who killed five people in the June 2018 mass shooting, will spend the rest of his life in prison or be sentenced to a maximum security psychiatric hospital.
Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess delivered a passionate closing argument blasting a mental health expert who tested in the defense case and likening the crime to the “fable” of a “narcissist’s journey,” asking jurors to write a happy ending by finding Ramos criminally responsible for the attack.
In a more subdued rebuttal argument, defense attorney Katy O’Donnell, with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, sought to convince jurors the “senseless” attack could only be explained by Ramos’ mental illness.
In her earlier closing, which followed the initial defense argument, Leitess rolled out a lengthy PowerPoint presentation the very first slide of which referenced Ramos’ interest in chess.
“Like a good chess player,” Ramos spent years methodically planning every aspect of the crime, Leitess said, hoping to induce the families of the victims of the attack to sue the Capital Gazette for negligence and bankrupt the newspaper he thought had treated him unfairly in its reporting of his 2011 harassment case.
Leitess referred to body-camera footage of Ramos’ arrest, when he was found by police lying under a desk in the newsroom surrounded by those he had gunned down, calmly allowing himself to be handcuffed. This, she said, showed he could conform his conduct to the requirement of the law.
When an officer said he thought Ramos was eyeing an another officer’s gun, he looked away, Leitess said.
“That is conforming your conduct so you don’t get shot by the police because they think you’re looking at their weapon,” Leitess said.
When he was taken to a police station for an eight-hour interview, he smirked at the “ridiculousness” of having to remove all his clothes and don a crinkly Tyvek suit, Leitess said, which showed he didn’t have a flat affect or struggle with social communication.
“He’s never unintelligible; he’s never rambling; he’s never incoherent,” Leitess said.
She criticized the defense case, which, she noted, carried the burden of proving Ramos suffered a mental disorder at the time of the attack. The defense never called Ramos’ parents, or therapists or coworkers, she said, to support the idea he struggled with serious mental disorders.
Leitess spent a portion of her closing eviscerating the credibility of defense expert witness, Dr. Dorothy Lewis, a well-known, but controversial psychiatrist who studies violence.
Leitess pointed out the doctor’s report evaluating Ramos was 10 pages long while the doctor’s curriculum vitae is 50 pages and that, while on the stand, the doctor mentioned articles in Vogue and People magazine that featured her.
The prosecutor suggested Lewis was past her prime.
“She’s living in another decade and it ain’t 2021,” Leitess said.
She pointed to Lewis’ at-times-fuzzy memory on the stand and misstatements about Ramos’ upbringing.
Leitess said the doctor testimony’s on the stand amounted to “recklessness from an expert in a deadly serious case. She is not credible; she just says whatever comes to the top of her mind.”
Defense attorney Matthew Connell objected a few times during Leitess’ critical comments about the doctor.
“I’m sorry if I’m being brutal, but this is too important to let it go,” Leitess told the jury at one point.
Leitess said Ramos was motivated by narcissistic rage after the paper reported on his harassment conviction, and he lost appeal after appeal in a subsequent defamation case.
The court-ordered psychiatrist in the case, who testified for the prosecution, diagnosed Ramos with narcissistic personality disorder as well as schizotypal personality disorders. Personality disorders are considered less severe than psychotic disorders.
At the end of the day, Leitess said, it doesn’t matter what mental disorders Ramos has. What matters is whether he was unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or unable to conform himself to the law, she said.
Referring to the defense attorneys, Leitess said, “They want you go back there and talk about autism and debate that for hours. They want you to talk about delusions and OCD.”
She added, “The independent court-appointed psychiatrist told you he knew what he was doing. That’s the end of the story, ladies and gentlemen — and it is that simple.”
Toward the end of her presentation, Leitess likened the case to a fable that could still have a happy ending.
“Once a man … tried to hurt as many people as he could to make himself feel better,” she said. “Even while in jail, he gloated about his crimes and lamented he didn’t get to kill more” and sought to make his trial a media farce, she continued.
“The end of his story is that a jury found him criminally responsible,” Leitess suggested as the proper ending of the tale.
She paused then spoke directly to jurors: “Find him criminally responsible.”
Defense closing argument: ‘Jarrod Ramos is a very sick person’
“Mental illness is a real thing, and Jarrod Ramos’ mental illness is a real thing.”
Defense attorney Matthew Connell opened closing arguments with those words in the insanity trial of the Capital Gazette gunman.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Jarrod Ramos is a very sick person,” Connell added. “You saw what he did. There can really be no doubt about that.”
Pointing to the expert testimony of the defense’s star witness, psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Lewis, Connell said Ramos suffered from delusions involving “weird, convoluted and paranoid reasoning” that a former high-school classmate who had pressed harassment charges against him in 2011 along with the Capital Gazette and the Maryland court system were engaged in a conspiracy against him.
In a criminal responsibility trial, the defense has the burden of proof to show by a preponderance of the evidence — meaning it’s more likely than not — that Ramos was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killings that impaired his ability to understand the criminality of his act or his ability to conform his behavior to the law.
Connell described Ramos’ legal filings, which contained bizarre references, as a “manifesto” and said they were “filled with gibberish like the ravings of a madman.”
Noting that eight different mental health experts had testified in the three-week trial, coming to conflicting conclusions, Connell said the jury could decide Ramos’ mental state at the time of the shooting rampage using common sense.
“There’s an old saying: Sometimes it’s hard to define something but you know it when you see it,” Connell said. “And this is what it looks like: a man in his late 30s living alone in his basement, urinating in bottles, not bathing for weeks at a time” — a reference to Ramos’ hermitic existence as he cared for his dying cat.
“It’s hard to define mental illness, but you know it when you see it: No job, no car, no girlfriend — ever,” Connell said. “Only going out every two or three days for necessities, and only going out at night, to avoid contact” with others.
Connell said it’s natural that jurors would feel sympathy for the five victims of the newsroom shooting. “We all know what he did and it was a terrible thing,” Connell said, of Ramos. “The issue here is his mental condition.”
Connell attacked the diagnoses reached by experts in the prosecution’s case, who testified Ramos suffers not from delusions but from less-severe personality disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder.
Connell read from a series of symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, including a need for excessive admiration and a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance or beauty.
“Jarrod Ramos? Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited beauty?” Connell said incredulously.
Connell reserved some of his sharpest criticism for the testimony of court-ordered psychiatrist Dr. Sameer Patel, who testified for the prosecution.
In biting terms, Connell accused Patel of being biased and a lack of professionalism for seeming to show emotion when he testified about the gunman’s eyes lighting up as he recounted the killings.
“You saw him pause and catch his breath because he was so emotional talking about the murders,” Connell said, adding that showed the doctor was more of an advocate than an objective observer.
“He kept looking at you out of the corner of his eye,” Connell said to jurors. “He wanted to see if you were approving of his zingers.”
The defense attorney said Patel’s conclusion that Ramos could appreciate the criminality of his conduct because he planned to be taken alive after the attack, was aware he would be arrested and would spend the rest of his life in prison, is “shallow and superficial.”
Ahead of closing arguments, competing arguments about the meaning of ‘criminal responsibility’
After dozens of witnesses, including eight mental health experts, wrenching testimony from the six survivors of the mass shooting, graphic surveillance video, a miniature model of the Annapolis newsroom and competing definitions of “criminally responsible,” closing arguments in the Capital Gazette gunman’s trial are set to begin Thursday.
The legal standard for the jury to determine Jarrod Ramos, 41, is not criminally responsible is if they find at the time of the offense, because of a mental disorder, he was unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or lacked the capacity to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law.
The defense has argued for a more expansive understanding, zeroing in on the word “appreciate,” which they said means more than simply Ramos knowing that his behavior was against the law. Defense attorney Katy O’Donnell said “appreciate” can also include an emotional understanding.
For their part, prosecutors have argued the defense is trying to push a “wrongfulness” theory of law — that Ramos acknowledges that his behavior was criminal but doesn’t believe it was wrong. Prosecutors say that idea does not align with Maryland law.
Dr. Sameer Patel, with Maryland’s Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital, was the prosecution’s final witness Wednesday. He was ordered by the court to evaluate Ramos and concluded he is criminally responsible.
Patel said several factors support the contention that Ramos appreciated the criminality of his conduct, such as his methodical planning for the attack, which included an awareness that he would be arrested after the attack and spend the rest of his life in prison.
Contentious cross examination of final witness ahead of closing arguments
During a lengthy, and at times contentious, cross examination, one of Jarrod Ramos’ defense attorneys zeroed in how the court-ordered psychiatrist reached his conclusion that Capital Gazette gunman Jarrod Ramos is criminally responsible for the June 2018 newsroom mass shooting.
Coming near the end of two hours of questioning, attorney Katy O’Donnell asked Dr. Sameer Patel, with Maryland’s Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital, whether he had ever asked Ramos if he believed what he did was “criminally wrong.”
Patel said he hadn’t asked that question specifically, but described Ramos’ plan to be arrested after the mass shooting and go to prison, saying it showed the gunman could appreciate the criminality of his conduct.
“That’s all there is to it?” O’Donnell asked, questioning why Patel needed a 120-page report to lay out Ramos’ background and personal history if it were that simple.
“He’s saying right here, it’s in black and white,” Patel said, referring to his report. “He was prepared to be arrested and go to prison for the rest of his life.”
The doctor added, “It’s that simple.”
Earlier, O’Donnell fired off a stream of questions about Patel’s report.
Noting its voluminousness — the 120-page report includes long passages of quoted material from Ramos — O’Donnell suggested Patel may have spent a great deal of his evaluation typing instead of engaging with Ramos and asking follow-up questions to probe his mental state.
She also noted that many of the report’s revelations about Ramos’ early childhood and adolescence — such as that he had many friends — relied only on Ramos’ own perceptions and were not verified by collateral sources.
Defense experts have diagnosed Ramos with autism spectrum disorder — which is typified by social communication problems in childhood — as well as delusional disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
For his part, Patel diagnosed Ramos with two less severe personality disorders: narcissistic personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder.
But O’Donnell noted that before issuing his report, Patel asked psychologist Dr. Marshall Cowan to conduct additional testing.
“Even after your 20 hours of interviews of Mr. Ramos … you had not concluded what you thought regarding mental disorders that you thought Mr. Ramos had,” O’Donnell said.
Patel said he was learning toward his two diagnoses and when Cowan independently reached the same finding, which Patel said “bolstered” his finding.
O’Donnell also noted that schizotypal personality disorder is on the schizophrenic spectrum and suggested, citing references in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, that it can present similar symptoms to autism.
O’Donnell pressed Patel repeatedly on Ramos’ history of social isolation in the few years leading up to the attack, suggesting he was consumed and obsessed by his defamation lawsuit against the Capital Gazette.
Patel responded that Ramos’ response to a 2011 Capital Gazette article about a harassment case can be explained by narcissistic personality disorder, and that the series of lawsuits he filed are the “result of a severe narcissistic injury.”
In her questioning, O’Donnell suggested the doctor failed to recognize the significance of the various legal documents Ramos filed, which are full of cryptic and bizarre references.
Patel said he had reviewed the filings but hadn’t included excerpts in his report.
After the cross examination, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess rested the state’s case.
The defense attempted a brief rebuttal phase of the trial, calling back to the stand Dr. Joanna Brandt, a forensic psychiatrist, who had testified earlier in the trial. Defense attorney Matthew Connell asked three general questions about the finding of not criminally responsible, but all three questions were objected to by Assistant State’s Attorney David Russell. Brandt then left the witness stand and the defense’s rebuttal phase ended.
Closing arguments are expected Thursday.
Court-ordered psychiatrist: Capital Gazette gunman criminally responsible for ‘methodical’ attack
The court-ordered psychiatrist who evaluated Capital Gazette shooter Jarrod Ramos in 2019 returned to the stand Wednesday, detailing the gunman’s “controlled, methodical” planning on the day of the attack and saying he doesn’t believe any mental disorder can account for the “pleasure” Ramos said he took in killing his final victim.
Dr. Sameer Patel, with Maryland’s Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital, said Ramos prepared four different scenarios for killing as many people as possible in the Capital Gazette newsroom on June 28, 2018, as well as slowing down first responders and surrendering without being shot himself.
Patel said he concluded that Ramos is criminally responsible for the attack because Ramos could appreciate the criminality of his act and was able to conform his behavior to the law.
Patel went point by point in great detail, showing how Ramos’ careful planning — including his plan to be taken into custody by law enforcement after the attack without being shot himself — indicated that he didn’t meet the requirements to be deemed not criminally responsible, which is Maryland’s version of an insanity plea.
Patel said Ramos had initially thought about attacking the Maryland Court of Special Appeals after a judge tossed an appeal in his unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against the newspaper, but decided to switch to a “soft target” after he ran into difficulty planning around the presence of armed guards at the courthouse.
The doctor said Ramos had studied other mass shootings and wore a stopwatch during the attack so he could make sure he carried it out within a matter of minutes. “He made very clear to me that he planned to be taken alive,” Patel said. “He mentioned that this was not a suicide mission.”
Ramos planned to spend the rest of his life in prison, Patel said, and even spent his last $1,500 on a lifetime membership with the U.S. Chess Federation.
“He told me that if he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison, he at least expected to get a chess magazine every month,” Patel said.
The doctor said bodycam footage of his arrest and eight hours of a police interview video shows Ramos complying with officers’ commands, showing he was able to conform his behavior to the requirements of law.
Finally, Patel said Ramos never exhibited an “element of coercion” from mental illness, such as expressing a belief that he had to carry out the attack because he felt directly threatened by the newspaper.
“He was basically acting as retribution for a past event — in other words, revenge, and that does not justify” a finding of not criminally responsible, the doctor said.
Regarding Ramos’ description of killing his final victim, whom he discovered hiding under a desk, Patel said, “He told me that he took a moment to enjoy himself, and he said that was the first time that he took extra personal pleasure” that day.
Patel added, “There’s no mental disorder that accounts for that.”
Patel is expected to be the prosecution’s final witness in the trial to determine whether Ramos, who killed five people in the Annapolis newsroom in June 2018, is criminally responsible for the act.
Defense attorney Katy O’Donnell began her cross-examination Wednesday morning.
Lead expert: Capital Gazette Gunman’s ‘eyes lit up’ recounting details of shooting
Wednesday morning, the court-ordered psychiatrist who evaluated Jarrod Ramos shared chilling details from his hours of interviews with the Capital Gazette gunman, saying Ramos’s “eyes lit up” when he recounted shooting one of his victims and the only regret he expressed was that he wasn’t able to kill more people in the June 2018 attack.
Dr. Sameer Patel, a forensic psychiatrist at Maryland’s Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, testified that he interviewed Ramos across six days spanning 20 hours between May and July 2019 and prepared a 120-page report.
Patel, who concluded Ramos is criminally responsible for the attack, is the final witness in the prosecution case. Ramos has pleaded not criminally responsible for the attack — Maryland’s version of an insanity defense — citing mental illness. The jury’s decision will determine whether Ramos is sentenced to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital or prison.
Patel shared several disturbing details from his interviews with Ramos, including that the gunman shot one of his victims at close range after finding him hiding under a desk when Ramos went looking for a computer to send a tweet. The doctor said Ramos ran back to retrieve his shotgun, which he had set aside, and “expressed joy” when he recounted the moments before he pulled the trigger.
The doctor added, “He was proud of what he had done. He took pleasure in that.”
Patel said Ramos told him he chose a Thursday for the shooting attack because he hoped to target members of a community editorial board that met on Thursday afternoons. As it turned out, there was no community meeting the day Ramos shot his way inside the newsroom and carried out the rampage.
“His only regret was he was unable to kill more people,” Patel added.
The shooting also came two days after state primary elections, and Patel said Ramos also hoped there might also be political figures present.
“Including you, Ms. Leitess,” the doctor said, referring to Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, who had recently won her primary race to be the Democratic nominee for the county’s top prosecutor job. “He mentioned you by name.”
Patel said he found the Capital Gazette shooter’s communication “crystal clear” across his nearly 20 hours of interviews, and said he displayed appropriate emotions depending on the topic. For example, Patel said, Ramos cried when recounting the death of his cat several weeks before the shooting and displayed anger when recalling a 2011 Capital Gazette article about his harassment conviction, which touched off his longstanding grudge against the newspaper.
“Mr. Ramos was very willing to talk,” Patel said. “He provided his story, and he wanted to tell his story.”
Defense experts have diagnosed Ramos with delusional disorder and autism spectrum disorder, a hallmark of the latter being communication impairments.
Patel also said Ramos also talked effusively about his planning for the June 2018 attack, which involved researching the police responses to other mass shootings and researching what kind of gun to use.
Ramos chose a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun in part because they came in left-handed models, and he believed a pump-action gun would be more reliable because it wouldn’t jam.
Psychiatrist: Gunman wanted to leave legacy
A psychiatrist testifying for the prosecution said the Capital Gazette shooter had a “long-standing interest” in leaving a legacy and had a “comfort with notoriety” that explains his motivation better than mental illness.
Dr. Gregory Saathoff, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Virginia, testified he believes Jarrod Ramos, 41, is criminally responsible for the shooting attack on the Annapolis newspaper, because he could appreciate the criminality of his act and had the ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.
Ramos has pleaded guilty to killing five people and wounding several others in the June 2018 attack but has pleaded not criminally responsible — Maryland’s version of an insanity plea — citing mental illness.
Saathoff has studied other mass shootings working with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, including the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the 2013 Navy Yard shooting and the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.
The psychiatrist said a series of cryptic letters Ramos sent on the day of the shooting rampage are “legacy tokens,” taking credit for the act and laying out a motivation.
For example, Ramos sent a greeting card to a former Capital Gazette reporter who had written about Ramos’ 2011 harassment conviction — the event that touched off Ramos’ long-running vendetta against the paper. The card read “Smile — It’s your day and all eyes are on you” and came with a CD containing evidence of Ramos’ planning of the attack.
Another letter — addressed to the wife of a judge in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals who had ruled against Ramos in his defamation case against the newspaper read: “Welcome … to your unexpected legacy. YOU should have died. Friends forever, Jarrod Ramos.”
Defense experts have testified that, at the time of the shooting, Ramos was suffering from a series of mental disorders and was beset by delusions about a conspiracy against him made up of the Capital Gazette and the Maryland court system.
Rather than delusions, Saathoff said the “legacy tokens” Ramos sent on the day of the shooting tie into a specific grievance he held, which the doctor described as a long-standing injury that causes mental distress and discomfort, “like a wound that doesn’t heal.”
He added, “A grievance can be consuming for an individual … something that is held on to.”
The doctor noted that the letters weren’t sent until the day of the crime, meaning they didn’t arrive until after he carried out the shooting attack and didn’t jeopardize his plan.
“I believe that it indicates an appreciation of the criminality of the event in that it was sent at a time when no one would have been able to intervene … prior to the event,” the doctor said.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Matthew Connell noted that Saathoff did not interview Ramos at all himself and relied on the reports of other doctors in the case — as well as interviews with others sources — to form his opinion.
“The jury has spent more time in the presence of Mr. Ramos than you have,” Connell said.
Psychiatrist: Evidence shows Capital Gazette gunman could conform his behavior
A forensic psychiatrist hired by prosecutors continued poking holes in the reports prepared by the defense experts who evaluated Capital Gazette shooter Jarrod Ramos.
Ramos has pleaded not criminally responsible for the attack, citing mental illness. Experts hired by his attorneys have diagnosed Ramos with three separate mental disorders, including delusional disorder.
Dr. Gregory Saathoff, a forensic psychiatrist who reviewed all the reports prepared in the case and interviewed 30 staff members at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, said there was ample evidence both before and after the shooting that Ramos demonstrated the ability to follow the law in ways small and large.
For example, when Ramos was convicted of harassment in 2011 — a series of events that set off his legal battles against the Capital Gazette — he was ordered to cease contact with the former high school classmate he was convicted of harassing while he was on probation.
Saathoff said Ramos complied with the order for as long as he was on probation, but then began contacting the woman again after his probation ended.
Saathoff also noted that Ramos, who had taken out 10 different credit cards in the years before the shooting, regularly paid the minimum balances on all the cards.
Along with appreciating the criminality of one’s conduct, being able to conform one’s conduct to the requirements of law is a key element of a finding of criminal responsibility in Maryland.
Saathoff also noted Ramos’ good behavior in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, where at least three correctional officers described Ramos as a “model inmate.”
In general, Saathoff said, the reports prepared by the defense experts were overly reliant on Ramos’ statements and don’t support their finding that Ramos is not criminally responsible for the shooting.
Saathoff noted that the defense experts “indicated in their reports that Mr. Ramos was often difficult to understand, that this speech was illogical and they would have short quotes of him making statements that the words did not string together. And they stated that this was evidence of a very severe mental problem.”
But Saathoff said Ramos’ statements were clear, grammatically correct and “linear and logical.”
The psychiatrist also noted that in interviews with Ramos’ sister, it appeared he had a “normal childhood” and that there’s no evidence of autism from his childhood.
Defense attorney: Prosecutor misstated law to jury about gunman’s sanity
A defense attorney for Capital Gazette gunman Jarrod Ramos says the lead prosecutor in the case misstated Maryland law in her opening statement last week.
In brief arguments Tuesday morning outside the jury’s presence, defense attorney Katy O’Donnell, who works for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and is one of three defense attorneys representing Ramos, said Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess erred when she told the jury Ramos is “presumed sane” and that there is a presumption of sanity.
Ramos has pleaded guilty to the newspaper shooting attack, but has pleaded not criminally responsible citing mental disorders.
O’Donnell said that while the burden of proof is on the defense to show Ramos is not criminally responsible for the shooting rampage, there is no presumption of sanity in Maryland law.
There used to be a presumption of sanity, O’Donnell said, but she said the law changed in the 1980s.
O’Donnell said Leitess’ statements — as well as a PowerPoint presentation she used in her opening that contained the line “The defendant is presumed sane” — “has the ability to be extremely confusing to the jury.”
O’Donnell added, “We think that is clearly a misstatement of the law and we think that is clearly prejudicial.”
The defense attorneys are asking for a “curative” jury instruction, which means the jury would be advised of the matter before beginning deliberations. O’Donnell also asked the judge to strike the prosecutor’s remarks from the record.
Assistant State’s Attorney David Russell argued against the defense motion, saying the lead prosecutor did not misstate the law and that burden of proof is analogous to a presumption.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs said he didn’t want the jury to be misinformed, but he was “tabling” the matter for now to think it over.
Report: Capital Gazette gunman a ‘model inmate’ with no history of psychiatric treatment in jail
A psychiatrist who interviewed more than two dozen staff members from the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, where the Capital Gazette gunman has been held for the past three years, said correctional officers considered him a “model inmate.”
One correctional captain said Jarrod Ramos “was the nicest inmate at Anne Arundel,” Dr. Gregory Saathoff, a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia, testified Monday.
Saathoff, who consults with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, was asked by prosecutors to prepare the report, which was based on interviews with 30 staff members, including correctional officers, transportation workers, nurses and mental health officials at the 635-bed detention facility.
Saathoff did not interview Ramos, but he interviewed Ramos’ sister and reviewed the reports of all the other mental health experts in the case, both prosecution and defense.
In contrast to his friendly demeanor with other jail staff, Ramos refused to engage with nurses who made their rounds three times, often turning his back on them, Saathoff said.
Saathoff said there was no indication Ramos had ever sought psychiatric treatment or been given medication to treat a psychiatric disorder while he’s been held awaiting trial.
“Mr. Ramos was very clear about his lack of interest about pursuing any treatment from them and demonstrated that by refusing to speak with nurses and mental health providers on most occasions,” Saathoff said.
Overall, Saathoff said he was concerned that reports by defense experts that characterized Ramos as beset by delusions and suffering from germaphobia and other obsessive-compulsive behaviors were based on an “excessive reliance” on Ramos’ own word and were not verified by other sources.
For example, he said, jail guards didn’t note anything unusual about Ramos’ shower routine; he would eat food shared from other inmates’ trays, and his cell was described as neat but not remarkably so.
“The defense experts, based upon Mr. Ramos’ unverified statements, came to conclusions about his diagnoses that no other mental health professional who has access Mr. Ramos came to,” Saathoff said.
Similarly, Saathoff said, he could find no verification that Ramos compulsively plucked his eyebrows or constantly paced his cell while reading. Instead he said notes from staff indicate that Ramos liked to read while sitting on his bunk.
Saathoff said Ramos has been held in his cell 23 hours a day but in the hour he was let out for free time in the housing block, he went from cell to cell to engage other inmates in conversation.
Defense experts have diagnosed Ramos with autism spectrum disorder, citing problems with social communication.
Saathoff has not yet been cross-examined and is due to return to the stand Tuesday.
2 other mental health experts testify in prosecution case
Earlier Monday, under cross examination by one Ramos’ defense attorneys, a forensic psychologist at Maryland’s state-run psychiatric hospital defended his conclusion about the mental state of the Capital Gazette shooter.
Dr. Marshall Cowan, a psychologist at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, evaluated Ramos and diagnosed him with narcissistic personality and schizotypal personality disorder.
Those two disorders are generally seen as less severe than disorders identified by mental health experts retained by Ramos’ defense attorneys. Those experts, who testified last week, diagnosed Ramos with delusional disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Cowan said when he conducts an evaluation, he goes into it with the idea that looking for the simplest explanation is often the best approach.
“I don’t want to over-pathologize everyone and send everyone to the hospital and have them doped up,” he said.
Defense attorney Elizabeth Palan also said that test scores measuring “grandiosity” in Ramos’ thoughts and behavior — a key trait in narcissistic personality disorder — fell in a normal range for Ramos in one of the tests Cowan administered.
Separately, Dr. Scott Bender, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Virginia, evaluated the findings of other experts in the case and criticized some of the psychological testing that was performed.
Bender was the second mental health expert to testify for the prosecution Monday.
Bender said the testing used to support a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder by two defense experts — Dr. Catherine Yeager and Dr. Dorothy Lewis — was only a “screener” test and not the “gold standard” used to diagnose autism, Bender testified.
Bender also testified that the lack of information and records from early in Ramos’ development — when autism usually presents itself — was “striking.”
Psychologist who diagnosed gunman with narcissistic personality disorder testifies
A forensic psychologist who evaluated Jarrod Ramos testified Monday that he found the Capital Gazette gunman “fairly normal” in his two interviews and that the psychological testing the doctor carried out supported a diagnosis of two less-severe personality disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder.
Dr. Marshall Cowan, a senior psychologist at Maryland’s Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital, said he was asked to evaluate Ramos by the court-ordered psychiatrist.
Cowan testified for the prosecution in the trial to determine whether Ramos will be sentenced to prison or to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital. Ramos had pleaded not criminally responsible for the June 2018 newspaper shooting rampage.
In two interviews with Ramos, Cowan said he did not observe any evidence Ramos was experiencing hallucinations. He said he found him a little “odd” in his demeanor, at first, but likened it to the awkwardness at the start of any conversation between two strangers.
He said Ramos exhibited some suspicion but “there didn’t appear to be an extreme amount of paranoia.”
He added that Ramos’ behavior was “fairly normal” and that “nothing stood out as being clearly symptomatic or pathological.”
Regarding his diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, Cowan said it is described as a pattern of grandiose behavior, a need for admiration and lack of empathy for others.
Cowan said the clinical interview and testing he conducted also supported schizotypal personality disorder, which is defined as a pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by discomfort with close relationships and eccentric behavior, such as odd thinking and speech.
Cowan’s diagnoses are less severe than the ones offered by mental health experts who testified in Ramos’ defense.
Defense experts retained by Ramos’ defense attorneys — including Dr. Dorothy Lewis, who has well-known reputation for evaluating serial killers — diagnosed Ramos with delusional disorder, which is a psychotic disorder. Lewis testified last week that, in addition to delusional disorder, she diagnosed Ramos with obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism spectrum disorder.
Cowan said Ramos’ belief that the newspaper and the Maryland court system had wronged him amounted to an “overvalued idea” rather than a delusion, which he said is a rigidly held false belief.
Cowan also said Ramos was paranoid, “but I don’t think it reached a level of delusion and was better explained by other criteria from other diagnoses,” he added.
He also ruled out obsessive-compulsive disorder, although he said Ramos did exhibit some “perfectionist” characteristics, he said.
At the time he conducted the examination and psychological testing, Cowan did not have access to other information in the cases. But as the case prepared for trial, he did review the other information, and he said it strengthened his diagnosis.
Focus on gunman’s spending in weeks before newsroom shooting
Prosecutors on Monday focused on the timeline leading up to the Capital Gazette shooting, laying out details of the gunman’s spending in the several weeks before he carried out the rampage in June 2018.
Lead detective Jason Depietro, with the Anne Arundel County Police, testified Monday morning, telling the jury he reviewed several of Jarrod Ramos’ transactions:
- A $135 charge to Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital in Laurel on May 10, 2018, relating to the euthanasia of Ramos’ cat.
- On May 27, 2018, Ramos deposited a $4,000 check from Carmax apparently after selling his Honda Element.
- On June 24, 2018, Ramos signed a rental agreement for a Kia Rio.
- On June 27, one day before the shooting, Ramos used his last $1,500, according to Citibank records shown to the jury, to buy a lifetime membership with the U.S. Chess Federation.
Ramos, 41, has already pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and several counts of assault related to the June 2018 attack. But he has pleaded not criminally responsible — Maryland’s version of an insanity plea — citing mental illness.
Prosecutors contend Ramos was motivated by revenge after the newspaper reported on his 2011 harassment conviction of a former high-school classmate.
PHOTOS: Prosecutors use tiny newsroom model to lay out details of shooting rampage
As survivors of the attack testified in wrenching detail Friday, prosecutors used an unusual tool to describe for the jury how the attack played out: A scale model of the Capital Gazette newsroom.
The FBI created the model for the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office using crime scene photos.
Prosecution Day 1: Focus on gunman’s behavior after shooting
The jury in the trial to determine whether the Capital Gazette gunman will go to prison or a maximum-security psychiatric hospital heard limited testimony about the nature of the injuries the victims suffered in the shooting rampage.
Two forensic pathologists with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner who conducted autopsies on the victims said all five died of wounds from being shot with a shotgun — and some victims were shot more than once.
But when one of the doctor began going into an extensive recitation of one of the victim’s injuries from buckshot that had caused severe internal damage, defense attorney Matthew Connell objected, and the judge sustained the objection — limiting the doctor’s testimony and the ability of Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Anne Colt Leitess to ask follow-up questions.
Overall, both pathologists testified all of the victims suffered injuries were “rapidly fatal,” meaning they would die in minutes without any treatment.
Judge Michael Wachs also apparently blocked Leitess from showing the jury a crime scene photo of one of the victims during the testimony of one of the pathologists. However, much of the haggling over how to handle the testimony happened in a bench conference out of earshot of the jury and observers in the courtroom, so the exact nature of the dispute between the attorneys over the medical testimony is unclear.
Jarrod Ramos has already admitted guilt in the killings but has pleaded not criminally responsible, citing mental illness.
Friday marked the first full day of the prosecution’s case, and the State’s Attorney’s Office moved through a roster of nearly 20 witnesses.
Earlier Friday afternoon, jurors heard from how Ramos barricaded the back entrance to the newsroom using a device known as a “Barracuda,” trapping employees in the newsroom during his shooting rampage.
Dan Brown, who worked in an office across the back hall from the Capital Gazette suite, testified he heard sounds in the hallway around the time Ramos installed the Barracudas, but he thought it was a maintenance crew doing work in the hallway. When the shooting started, Brown testified, he thought it might have been a nail gun.
Separately, Friday, clips were played for the jury of Ramos being walked into a police building in Crownsville, where he was interviewed by a detective and an FBI agent after the shooting.
Officer Matthew Johnson, with the Anne Arundel County Police Department, said Ramos was quiet during the drive and was calm and compliant as he was walked into the Criminal Investigation Division building and through its narrow fluorescent-lit hallways to a small interview room.
The video shows Ramos shows sitting quietly. When officers come into the room to retrieve his clothes for evidence and have him change into a plastic Tyvek suit, he complied with all the instructions.
“He put on the suit just fine … there wasn’t unusual behavior at all,” Johnson said.
Extended excerpts of Ramos’ eight-hour police interview video have already been entered into evidence.
Later, videos of the Ramos being booked, fingerprinted and photographed were shown to the jury. Anne Arundel County Detective Kelly Harding was asked why she didn’t seem to be keeping a close eye on Ramos.
She responded, “He was very compliant and cooperative. He wasn’t doing anything to give me concern.”
Prosecutors argue Ramos carried out the attack on the newspaper as revenge for an unflattering article, not because he suffered delusions, as his defense attorneys claim.
‘Waiting to die’: Capital Gazette shooting rampage survivors testify
Survivors of the shooting rampage in the Capital Gazette newsroom testified Friday in the sanity phase of the gunman’s trial, describing in wrenching detail how they managed to flee or hid under desks “waiting to die” as they watched their colleagues cut down by gunfire.
Gunman Jarrod Ramos, 41, has pleaded guilty to killing five people in the shooting attack in June 2018, but not criminally responsible, citing mental illness.
The Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office, which began the prosecution case Thursday, contends that Ramos was seeking revenge after the paper reported on a harassment conviction and after he lost a defamation lawsuit.
Janel Cooley, an advertising sales rep, said she was on the phone with a client at around 2:30 p.m. on June 28, 2018, when she heard what sounded like a loud explosion. At first, she said, she thought there had been some sort of electrical malfunction in the ceiling.
Then Cooley, who was sitting near the entrance of the newsroom, saw the shattered front door.
“I looked toward my right and that’s where I saw a man with a gun,” Cooley said.
She immediately dropped down under her desk, she said.
“I didn’t really understand what was going on. I just kind of knew whatever was going on wasn’t good, and I was scared and I had to hide.”
Cooley, became briefly emotional as she recalled hearing sales assistant Rebecca Smith, who was shot and killed, say “in a very small, quiet voice, ‘no, no, no.’ Then I heard the shotgun go off.”
She added, “That’s when I realized what was happening: There’s someone in here with a gun and he’s killing us.”
Cooley said she saw reporter Wendi Winters, who was shot and killed, charged Ramos with a trash bin and a recycling bin in each hand, Cooley testified.
“I heard her say, ‘You get out of here, you stop that,’ like scolding him,” Cooley said. “Then I heard the shotgun going off.”
Cooley said she saw the green laser of the gunman’s shotgun on the wall.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to be on me in two seconds. This is going to hurt.’”
She said she wasn’t consciously thinking, but at some point, she decided to make a run for it, down a small hallway and then out through the shattered front entrance.
On the threshold of the door, she found Smith, who was grievously wounded, trying to crawl to safety out the front door.
“I knew there was nothing I could do for her,” Cooley said. “I just kind of bent down and touched her.”
But when Cooley looked back, she saw the gunman behind her. She hopped forward, cutting her hand on the broken glass.
“I just hightailed it out of there,” she said.
Paul Gillespie, a photographer for the Gazette, hid under his desk in the newsroom when the shooting started.
“I sat there curled up in a ball trying not to breathe,” he said, and tried not to make a sound. He said he thought, “Is this really happening? I’m gonna die.”
When he heard a lull in the shooting, he decided to run. In his flight, he saw the gunman behind him for a brief second
“I felt a breeze going past my head,” from Ramos firing at him before he ran through the shattered glass doors.
Gillespie initially ran to a closet in the hallway outside the Capital suite, then out the front doors. He first ran up to a woman in her car in the parking lot.
“There’s somebody shooting up the Capital Gazette,” he testified he told the woman. “She just rolled up her window and took off.”
He later ran into a nearby bank — the “whole time I was thinking I was gonna get shot in the back,” he said — and collapsed to the floor.
It was only several days later, Gillespie testified, when he went to log into his Twitter account that he learned the shooter had used his computer to tweet out a message after he stopped shooting. Ramos tweeted, “F*** you leave me alone”’ — a reference to a line in the 2011 Capital Gazette article that Ramos had sued over.
Selene San Felece and Anthony Messenger, an intern only three weeks on the job, hid under a desk in the back corner of the office.
Before he shot out the front entrance, Ramos placed special “Barracuda” devices underneath the back entrance that prevented employees from escaping out the back door.
Barricaded back door
San Felece said she frantically tried the back door before she and Messenger crawled under a desk. She said she was breathing so heavily so breathed into Messenger’s back and, at one point, bit him.
She said she used Messenger’s cellphone to call her dad, texted her parents and tweeted from Messenger’s account: “active shooter 888 bestgate please help us.”
From their hiding place, she said, she watched reporter John McNamara running toward another desk to hide.
“Before he got shot, there was a moment when he said, ‘Oh my God.’ Then he was shot.”
After the shots, it was quiet, except for the sound of the gunman’s footsteps.
“I heard the sound of footsteps as if he was wearing heavy boots,” she said. “But I never heard him say anything.”
She added: “I was waiting to die.”
Messenger testified when he saw McNamara get shot, “I thought that was gonna be it for me.”
He added, “It was just eerily silent.” The only sound he heard was the gunman’s boots on broken glass, he said.
Rachel Pacella, an education reporter for the Capital, was also trapped in the back corner of the office. When she went to try the handle of the barricaded back door, she tripped and hit her head, shattering her glasses and slicing her face. She suffered a concussion in the fall.
She was disoriented for a few moments by the blood in her eyes, but she jumped behind two filing cabinets in corner to hide.
She heard her co-worker John McNamara being shot. “As he was dying, I could hear his last breaths,” she testified.
Office worker who called 911: ‘Very chaotic, very loud’
An insurance salesman who worked in a suite across the hallway from the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, who made the first 911 call after the shooting rampage began in June 2018, testified Friday.
Keith Cyphers said he was on the phone when he heard what he described as “such a loud noise that it was alarming … really so loud you could feel it in your chest, like standing next to a speaker at a concert.”
When he looked out the front door of his office, he saw the front glass doors of the Capital Gazette’s suite shattered in a thousand pieces on the carpet.
“I saw a man walking through the lobby of the Capital Gazette office holding a shotgun,” Cyphers testified.
He said he “pretty quickly put two and two together,” and realized the man, who he described as holding the shotgun at chest level and carrying it like he’d seen in movies and in video games, was shooting at people in the office.
“This guy looked like he was staring intently at them,” Cyphers said.
He ducked back down into his cubicle in the office across the hallway to call 911, he said.
Cyphers said he heard screaming and yelling in the first 30 seconds of the attack. It was “very chaotic, very loud” in the beginning.
“Then it was quiet,” he said.
His roughly eight-minute 911 call was played for the jury. “There’s a man shooting the Capital Gazette office,” Cyphers says in the call.
In the call, he provides a description of the shooter — a young man in his 20s or 30s wearing a black shift, green pants with long hair — and says he heard multiple shots, maybe 10.
After a few minutes of quiet on the 911 call, Cyphers suddenly says, “He’s still shooting. He just shot again.”
Prosecutor: Capital Gazette shooting was act of revenge not mental illness
The 2018 Capital Gazette shooting rampage wasn’t the act of a severely mentally ill man but a methodically planned cold-blooded act of revenge, an Anne Arundel County prosecutor said Thursday in the prosecution’s opening statement.
“Ladies and gentleman, this is about revenge,” Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said
The prosecution’s opening statement comes more than a week after the start of the trial to determine whether 41-year-old Jarrod Ramos will be sentenced to prison or a psychiatric hospital. Ramos has already pleaded guilty to the attack that killed five and wounded several others. But he has pleaded not criminally responsible, Maryland’s version of an insanity defense. Prosecutors opted to delay their opening statement until the conclusion of the defense case.
Leitess said that though psychiatric experts, including a court-appointed doctor and psychiatrists hired by the state, agreed that Ramos has been diagnosed with some personality disorders — including narcissistic personality disorder — they are not major disorders, such as delusional disorder as Ramos’ lawyers testified earlier in the trial.
“He has issues with his personality,” Leitess said tartly.
She also noted the presence of a mental disorder does not, by itself, mean that person is not criminally responsible for their actions.
Leitess told the jury that Ramos was angered over a 2011 Capital Gazette article that reported on his harassment conviction and that he began seeking redress in the courts, through a defamation lawsuit, “when he realized this article would dog him in his romantic life.”
Ramos thought he was smarter than everybody else, Leitess said, but when he began losing in the courts, “that injury was too much for him to bear, so he started plotting his revenge,” the prosecutors said.
She said Ramos initially planned to attack a Maryland court building but changed his mind when he realized how heavily defended they are by police officers guards.
“So what he did is, he picked a soft target,” Leitess said.
Ramos spent years plotting the attack, running up $90,000 in credit card debt he never intended to repay. “He knew he was going to kill,” Leitess said, adding “it was worth it to him.”
Much of Leitess’ opening statement was spent laying out the 30-minute timeline of the June 28, 2018, attack — from the time he arrived at the newsroom at 888 Bestgate Road in Annapolis Road and barricaded back exits to block fleeing employees to the point he was found lying under a desk by police and handcuffed after shooting and killing five employees.
Before shooting his way into the glass doors of the newsroom’s entrance, he carried into the building nearly 30 pounds of equipment, including the special Barracuda devices to block the back exits.
He was outfitted with shooters’ glasses and earplugs, carrying a left-handed 12-gauge shotgun with laser sights.
Still images from surveillance video of the attack was played again during Leitess’ opening statement. After the opening statement, a juror passed a note to the judge and asked if jurors were going to have to watch graphic video of one of the grievously wounded victims for a second time.
Six people who survived the shooting, by fleeing the hail of bullets or crawling under desks or other hiding places in the newsroom, will testify for the prosecution, Leitess said.
Leitess noted that, in a criminal responsibility trial, the burden of proof is on Ramos’ defense attorneys to prove that he suffers from a mental disorder that impaired his ability to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or that he couldn’t conform his conduct to the law.
“This is not a game. This is not poker. This is not chess,” Leitess said, referring to some of Ramos’ hobbies. “This is their burden,” Leitess added, using the language of the statute, “to prove that this man, who came armed for death, couldn’t appreciate the criminality and couldn’t conform his conduct.”
Combative cross-examination of defense expert
The lead defense expert in Jarrod Ramos’ insanity trial testified Thursday she believes the Capital Gazette gunman is not criminally responsible for the 2018 newsroom shooting.
“He was impelled by psychotic thoughts and impulses and because he was paranoid, and he was unable to control his behavior,” testified Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a veteran psychiatrist known for evaluating serial killers, including Ted Bundy.
However, during a withering cross-examination, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess tore into Lewis’ testimony, starting with her description of Ramos’ relationship with his 14-year-old cat that was sick with cancer and died several weeks before the shooting.
Lewis said Ramos was “broken” by the loss of his cat.
“His cat was his last tie to sanity, his only affection for a living thing and I think the loss of this living animal, the only one he loved, his ‘fur wife,’ after that he was alone with his delusions and his obsession.”
Leitess showed the jury an email Ramos sent to the veterinarian thanking him for treating his cat. Tiger “had a wonderful life, a beautiful dying, and a very good death. Thank you … for helping her,” Ramos wrote in the email.
Leitess zeroed in on other apparent misstatements from Lewis’ testimony.
In her testimony Thursday morning, Lewis — citing an interview with Ramos’ sister — said the siblings’ father was “brutal” to their mother and also apparently struggled with alcohol. Under Leitess’ questioning, Lewis acknowledged those details were not in her report, because, she said, she could not verify them through other sources. She also said she meant to say it was Ramos’ mother who drank alcohol.
“I may have misspoken or you may have misheard,” Lewis said to Leitess.
Lewis also testified her series of interviews with Ramos totaled roughly 17 hours, but Leitess, pulling jail visitor logs, suggested her meetings with Ramos totaled 11 hours. Later, defense attorney Katy O’Donnell pulled emails showing the visits may have been extended.
Under questioning from Leitess, Lewis also acknowledged that she couldn’t remember whether she had watched the full eight-hour police interview from shortly after he was arrested.
“Did you see him smiling and laughing at a joke?” Leitess said, apparently to rebut the doctor’s diagnosis of autism, which often presents difficulties in social communication.
Lewis replied, “My recollection is that he has an atypical sense of humor.”
Leitess addressed controversies from Lewis’ past, including high-profile consulting work on the D.C. sniper case and Mark David Chapman, the man who shot and killed John Lennon.
Leitess attempted to read a passage from Lewis’ 1998 book “Guilty By Reason of Insanity: A Psychiatrist Explores the Minds of Killers” about Ted Bundy, but defense attorney Katy O’Donnell objected and the judge blocked the prosecutor from reading further.
In order to be found not criminally responsible in Maryland, a defendant has to prove two factors: That, because of a mental disorder, he or she lacked the ability to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct; or that he or she lacked the capacity to confirm his or her conduct to the requirements of the law.
Ramos “does not appreciate the magnitude of what he’s done, the heartbreak, the tragedy. And to my mind that is appreciating the enormity of the crime that he committed,” Lewis said.
Lewis said Ramos knows he broke the law. But appreciating the criminality of his conduct is different.
“To appreciate the criminality of a murder, you’re realizing, ‘My God, what have I done?’ And it’s not there.”
Lewis’ definition drew an outcry from Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. After the jury had been shepherded outside the room, Leitess told Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs she believed Lewis was misstating Maryland law relating to criminal responsibility.
In her cross-examination, Leitess noted that Ramos purchased the 12-gauge shotgun he used in the shooting in 2017, but he didn’t use it to shoot anyone until the attack on the newsroom in June 2018.
“He could control his behavior then,” Leitess said.
Lewis responded: “He was plotting … He was going through his paranoid planning.”
Leitess also pointed to an interview Ramos gave in jail to the court-ordered psychiatrist that he wanted the Capital Gazette employees he had previously sued — who no longer worked at the newspaper — to suffer survivor’s guilt over the death of the other employees.
“I found this kind of a ludicrous concept that the people who were not shot at the Gazette, or the people whose behavior 10 years earlier or six years had fomented this — because they were alive and well that these people would feel guilty,” Lewis said. “This is a crazy fantasy. This is not how people operate.”
Psychiatrist: Capital Gazette gunman’s only close relationship was to cat he called ‘fur wife’
The only close relationship the Capital Gazette gunman had close to the time of the 2018 newsroom shooting rampage was with his cat, which he called his “fur wife,” the lead expert witness for the defense testified Thursday.
The revelation came after about two hours of testimony Thursday from psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, who diagnosed Ramos with three mental disorders, including delusional disorder, and believes he is not criminally responsible for the shooting.
Lewis said she was “touched” by Ramos’ devoted relationship with the cat, which was ill with cancer and was euthanized several weeks before the shooting. When the cat was ill, he stayed with it around the clock, eschewing bathing and urinating into bottles so that he wouldn’t have to get up from the couch and disturb the dying animal, she said.
Dr Dorothy Lewis testifies to Ramos’ attachment to his late cat, whom she says he called his “fur wife.” “For 2 or 3 weeks before the animal’s death he sat with it… he didn’t shower. He did not want to move the cat so he kept bottles near him to urinate in.”
— Megan Cloherty (@ClohertyWTOP) July 8, 2021
“To me, I picture a very fine thread that still connected him to living, breathing things — I can’t say humanity,” Lewis said, of Ramos’ relationship with the cat. “When that cat died, something bad happened.”
She explained, “I think the cat was the only thing that attached Mr. Ramos to the world at large. … It was that relationship that tied him a little bit to reality. And when that was broken, he was broken.”
She said Ramos’ relationship to the cat is important because “Mr. Ramos was and is a virgin. He’s never had a kiss with a girl, much less a sexual relationship, and this was his fur wife.”
Ramos has pleaded guilty to killing five people in the Capital Gazette newsroom in June 2018 but has also pleaded not criminally responsible, which is Maryland’s version of the insanity defense.
Defense expert describes Capital Gazette gunman’s ‘very elaborate fantasy’
Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a veteran psychiatrist, who evaluated Jarrod Ramos at the request of his defense team, testified Thursday that in her hours of interviews with the Capital Gazette gunman, she confronted him with the question of why he killed people who had nothing to do with his long-running grudge against the newspaper.
The newspaper reported in 2011 that Ramos had pleaded guilty to harassing a former high school classmate. But none of the people Ramos killed in his June 2018 shooting rampage had anything to do with that article.
“He felt that in the other larger scheme of things, he was justified,” Lewis said. “He had the fantasy that this would redeem him in some way. It was a wild, convoluted paranoid kind of reasoning — that the families of the victims would be so enraged they would sue the Gazette in his stead, and the Gazette and the judges in the case would go out of business.”
Lewis diagnosed Ramos, 41, with delusional disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism spectrum disorder.
In support of her diagnoses, she pointed to Ramos’ apparent justification for the shooting, calling it a “very elaborate fantasy.”
She said, in her estimation, Ramos had been beset by a long-running delusion that the Capital Gazette and the Maryland court system were conspiring and colluding against him as evidenced by his unsuccessful attempts to appeal his defamation lawsuit.
“Because of this, he thought that all the rules of society had been broken down,” she said, and that he was living in an “anarchist society.”
Carrying out the shooting attack, in his mind, was a way to somehow restore his reputation, she said.
“I think that he believed by doing this act, by committing this act, it would bring the attention of the world to the corruption in society, in general, and that this was the only way that perhaps the collusion in society, the illegality, the unfairness could, perhaps, start to be redeemed.”
She added, “But he had to call this to the attention of the public.”
Lewis, who has a well-known, if controversial, reputation, has been practicing psychiatry for more than 50 years. She is in her 80s and, on the stand, had trouble remembering some specific details without referring to her report. At times, she gave long answers that strayed from the original question, drawing numerous objections from Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.
In her testimony, Lewis said Ramos, by the time of the shooting, appeared to be convinced of a wide-ranging conspiracy, involving the woman — a former high school classmate he had reconnected with on Facebook — the Capital Gazette newspaper and the judges who had ruled against him in his unsuccessful defamation case.
“By the time he came to the shooting incident, he was convinced just about all of the people who had disappointed in his life were colluding with one another,” Lewis said.
She acknowledged she couldn’t “totally follow” Ramos’ thinking, but added, “That’s how psychotic paranoid thinking works.”
She testified that Ramos felt so damaged by the 2011 Capital Gazette article about his harassment case that he thought the “world was whispering about him.”
She quoted from a lengthy legal filing he made in 2012 in his defamation lawsuit, in which he said the original Capital Gazette article “haunted” him like a shadow or an “invisible storm cloud.”
Lewis also testified that she believes Ramos’ obsessive-compulsive disorder played a role in his methodical planning for the attack.
Based on her interviews, Lewis noted obsessive traits in Ramos’ behavior going back years. “But his obsessions took a very dark turn,” Lewis said, after the publication of the 2011 Capital Gazette article.
First, he was obsessed with the reporter who wrote the article, then with the newspaper, then with the entire court system, she said.
“Then he sort of wove these together into one large obsession that could not be dealt with without blowing it up, which he unfortunately did. ”
She added, “Paranoid obsessions are common among very, very sick individuals.”
Serial killer expert weighs in
A renowned but controversial psychiatrist known for evaluating serial killers, whose work has been cited by the Supreme Court and who was featured in an HBO documentary last year, gave her opinion on the mental state of the Capital Gazette gunman.
Dr. Dorothy Lewis interviewed Jarrod Ramos four times in 2019 and 2020, and in her evaluation said he suffers from delusional disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and is on the autism spectrum.
That is the same diagnosis reached by Catherine Yeager, a clinical psychologist, who testified earlier for the defense. The two mental health experts collaborated on their evaluation.
Lewis testified Ramos’ criminal behavior is closely related to his deeply held delusional beliefs.
“He harbors obsessions and he has for the past decade or so, that he has not really been able to get rid of or wanted to,” Lewis told defense attorney Katy O’Donnell.
She said Ramos belongs on the autism spectrum “because of his inability to recognize his own feelings, much less the feelings of other people.”
The combination of all three disorders means Ramos “can’t appreciate the magnitude of the sadness he’s caused these families,” Lewis added. “This is just not in his repertoire, and that combination is dangerous.”
In addition to the interview with Ramos, Lewis said she based her evaluation on an interview with Ramos’ sister; reviewed the evaluations of other mental health experts; Ramos’ legal filings from his defamation lawsuit; and reviewed extensive details and reports about the June 2018 shooting.
Lewis is the subject of the HBO documentary “Crazy, Not Insane.” She is a polarizing figure in the psychiatric community because of her work with dissociative identity disorder, which used to be known as multiple personality disorder.
Her research on violent child offenders was cited in Supreme Court cases overturning the death penalty for people who were juveniles at the time they committed their crimes.
Lewis has not yet been cross-examined. In curt questioning before Lewis was admitted as an expert witness, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess questioned whether Lewis, who has never testified as an expert witness in Maryland, actually knew the state’s legal definition of “criminal responsibility,” but Lewis appeared to easily recite it from memory from the stand.
Prosecutor picks apart defense diagnosis
The prosecutor in the Capital Gazette gunman’s insanity trial dissected the evaluation of a psychologist hired by the defense, pointing out apparent inconsistencies between the report the psychologist filed based on her evaluation of Jarrod Ramos and what the shooter told other doctors.
Clinical psychologist Catherine Yeager, who was hired by the defense, testified that she believes Ramos suffers from autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and delusional disorder.
Yeager testified that, in line with her “diagnostic impression” of OCD, Ramos harbored a fear of “human filth” and germs and would obsessively clean his Laurel apartment and, after he was arrested, his jail cell.
However, in her cross-examination, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, citing jail records and interviews Ramos gave to another psychiatrist, pointed out instances where Ramos had apparently constructed a “feces bomb” to throw at or intimidate another inmate, and at least two other times he smeared his feces into a vent so he could be moved to another cell.
Leitess also displayed for the jury a March 2012 letter and photos from his apartment’s management company that noted “serious housekeeping issues,” including an “extremely dirty” kitchen and bathroom.
The photos showed thick stains on a stove top, dirty utensils and what appeared to be a grimy tub.
“It’s not a tub that I would bathe in,” Yeager acknowledged under questioning from Leitess.
Earlier in her testimony, Yeager testified that Ramos had told her of 20 different obsessive thoughts and behaviors, including compulsively removing his eyebrow hair, which is known as trichotillomania.
However under questioning from the prosecutor, Yeager acknowledged she had never seen Ramos pull out his eyebrows (he told Yeager he did that as part of his shower routine), nor did she see patchy spots in his eyebrows or any other evidence.
Leitess also introduced two jail photos — one from 2018 and the other from 2019 — in which Ramos’ eyebrows appear to be of the same thickness.
The prosecutor also took issue with Yeager’s testimony about the delusion she believes Ramos suffers from.
Yeager testified that after a Capital Gazette article reporting on Ramos’ harassment of a former high school classmate appeared in 2011, Ramos spiraled into a long-running delusion that the woman, the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Capital Gazette were engaged in a conspiracy against him.
Yeager said the delusion grew and eventually overtook his life, although if his “delusion wasn’t poked,” he could appear normal in everyday life.
“This man believes these people have conspired against him so he could no longer live in society,” Yeager said of the delusion she believes Ramos suffers from.
Leitess pointed to statements Ramos apparently made to Dr. Sameer Patel, a psychiatrist at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, who is expected to testify for the prosecution, that Ramos was upset about the 2011 Capital Gazette article because if he ever went to date a woman, he was afraid she would Google his name and read about his harassment case.
Defense expert: Lawsuit ‘spells out the delusion’
A psychologist who diagnosed Jarrod Ramos with a number of mental disorders, including delusional disorder, testified Wednesday, saying the repeated court filings he made in a defamation case against the Capital Gazette was evidence of his long-running delusion that he was being persecuted by the Annapolis newspaper and the Maryland court system.
“This document spells out the delusion,” Catherine Yeager said Wednesday of a 2012 defamation lawsuit Ramos filed against a Capital Gazette reporter and the newspaper, itself. “Mr. Ramos was convinced that there was a conspiracy.”
She said the original 2011 Capital Gazette article about Ramos’ harassment conviction was the “tipping point” for Ramo’s delusional beliefs.
However, during her cross-examination, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess confronted Yeager with statements the Capital Gazette gunman made to another psychiatrist.
In an interview with Dr. Sameer Patel, with the state-run Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital, Ramos told the doctor pleading not criminally responsible — Maryland’s version of an insanity defense — could be “useful” to him, because he might have access to the internet in a psychiatric hospital but not in prison, and that he wanted to make his trial a “farce.”
Those are Leitess’ characterizations of what Ramos told the state psychiatrist. Patel has not yet testified in Ramos’ criminal responsibility trial but is expected to do so for the state.
Ramos has pleaded guilty to killing five people in the June 2018 shooting rampage in the Capital Gazette newsroom, but has pleaded not criminally responsible due to mental illness.
Prosecutors in their questioning have suggested Ramos is feigning mental illness — known as malingering.
In response to the cross-examination Wednesday, Yeager, the defense mental health expert, said Ramos told her he wanted to go through with the criminal responsibility phase of the trial, because of an obsession with due process and fairness.
Regarding his multiple legal filings, Yeager said she found them clinically significant because they show his fixation with his defamation case “and how wounded he was” by a 2011 Capital Gazette article that reported on his harassment case.
Ramos was receiving psychotherapy at the time of his harassment case — and some of the treatment was court-ordered. But Yeager said reviewing the notes put together by the therapist, she said, she noted a “total breakdown in therapy” as Ramos became “consumed” with his legal battles.
Psychologist details gunman’s obsessions, including ‘zombie viruses’
A psychologist who examined Capital Gazette gunman Jarrod Ramos and believes he suffers from a trio of mental disorders testified Tuesday.
Catherine Yeager, who now works as a clinical health psychologist at Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon in Georgia, said she believes Ramos has autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and delusional disorder.
Yeager said she interviewed Ramos on three separate occasions — totaling roughly 15 hours — and also interviewed his sister, a childhood friend. She said she also reviewed scores of other material in the case, including other clinical reports from doctors, the body-camera footage depicting Ramos’ arrest and initial interview with police, Ramos’ legal filings when he sought to represent himself in a defamation lawsuit against the Capital Gazette and his “voluminous” Twitter postings.
She shied away from calling her findings a diagnosis, instead calling them a “diagnostic impression,” because she didn’t interview Ramos’ parents or other family members who knew Ramos when he was a child.
Regarding her finding of autism spectrum disorder, Yeager said she interviewed a childhood friend of Ramos who remembered Ramos as having few friends growing up, interested mainly in video games and tending to dress the same way every day.
In high school, the friend described Ramos as wanting to be by himself and would often rant about his rigid interest.
“It was hard to have a give and take conversation with him,” she said.
Yeager collaborated with Dr. Dorothy Lewis on the interview of Ramos. Lewis is another mental health expert hired by the defense, who is expected to testify later in the trial.
Ramos has pleaded guilty to killing five people in a shooting rampage he carried out in the Capital Gazette newsroom in June 2018, but has pleaded not criminally responsible — Maryland’s version of an insanity plea — due to mental illness.
Regarding her testimony of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Yeager said Ramos described to her 20 different rituals or obsessive thoughts, including what she described as an obsessive concern for dirt and germs.
She said he told her that he harbored a fear of “human filth” and germs starting in young adulthood that he apparently called “zombie viruses” and apparently feared a “zombie apocalypse.”
She said he also was beset by obsessive concern for right and wrong and rule-following.
Yeager did not finish testifying Tuesday, and prosecutors have not yet had a chance to cross-examine her about her findings.
Jury sees reams of bizarre legal filings
Reams of legal documents Capital Gazette gunman Jarrod Ramos filed between 2012 and 2015 were shown to jurors Tuesday as they prepare to decide whether Ramos will be sentenced to prison or a psychiatric hospital.
The filings date from a yearslong legal battle Ramos campaigned against a woman who had accused him of harassment and the Annapolis newspaper for reporting on his 2011 conviction.
The filings — large portions of which were read by a defense investigator to the jury — contain bizarre and cryptic references, but also highly precise legal terms, such as “justiciable tortious acts of malicious defamation.”
Ramos represented himself in his unsuccessful defamation case against the Capital Gazette and the numerous appeals he filed, up to Maryland’s highest court.
On one of the opening pages of his 2012 defamation lawsuit, filed in Prince George’s County, Ramos quotes from the ancient Mesopotamian epic Gilgamesh: “If I fail, I will establish my name.”
He also quotes other apparent proverbs in the filings, including: “He who has lost his reputation is a dead man among the living.”
The beginning of the 2012 lawsuit reads in part “Truth is my deity,” and “an insidious invisible wound festers my soul.”
Sections in the filings over the years contain grandiose and strange headings including “Metaphysical assault with a deadly weapon,” “Blood on their hands,” “Wages of sin” and “A new gospel: silencing lies and punishing prevarication.”
Defense attorney Elizabeth Palan also highlighted passages in several of the filings where Ramos alleged what he believed to be a conspiracy by the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office, the woman who accused Ramos of harassment and the Capital Gazette to punish him because he hadn’t served jail time after pleading guilty to harassment.
According to the filings, Ramos was fixated on a single phrase from the July 2011 article in The Capital Gazette about Ramos’ harassment case. The article said he had reconnected with a high classmate on Facebook and then began sending her harassing messages, including one that stated “F*** you, leave me alone,” even though, the paper reported, she hadn’t responded to him in months.
“That carried a clear implication that something is wrong inside my head, that I’m insane,” Ramos told a judge in a 2012 legal proceeding about his defamation suit, according to a copy of the transcript read during Ramos’ trial Tuesday.
Ramos has pleaded guilty to killing five people in the June 2018 shooting attack in the Capital Gazette newsroom. But he has pleaded not criminally responsible — Maryland’s version of an insanity plea — citing mental illness.
During her cross-examination, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess noted that many of the strange phrases Ramos used in the filings were making reference to the Capital Gazette’s responses — essentially a play on words.
‘The jury is clearly frustrated’
The second week of the criminal responsibility trial of Capital Gazette gunman Jarrod Ramos began with more legal wrangling over the testimony of mental health experts.
This time, objections were raised by the defense about documents submitted by Dr. Sameer Patel, a forensic psychiatrist at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center who examined Ramos and will testify for the prosecution. Patel had apparently prepared notes comparing his examination and diagnosis of Ramos with other reports prepared by doctors hired by Ramos’ defense attorneys. The notes were provided to the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office on July 4 and were then handed over to the defense.
In Anne Arundel County Circuit Tuesday morning, Ramos defense attorney Matthew Connell said the documents contained new opinions from Dr. Patel and likened it to a discovery violation, meaning the documents hadn’t been shared promptly.
Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess disagreed, saying the state turned over the notes to the defense in a timely manner and that the notes didn’t turn contain any new opinions. She said it was a compare-and-contrast between Patel’s evaluation and the opinions of the doctors hired by the defense.
“I don’t think it’s a violation,” Leitess said. “We gave it when we got it.”
Judge Michael Wachs agreed that he didn’t think that there had been any violation and said he would decide later whether the defense could question Patel about his new notes when he testifies later in the trial.
Too many objections?
Separately Tuesday, Connell, the defense attorney, raised the issue of how the attorneys in the case were questioning witnesses.
He said prosecutors have made “an excessive amount of objections” regarding how defense attorneys were phrasing questions to witnesses, and he suggested it was making the proceedings difficult for jurors to follow.
“The jury is clearly frustrated,” he said, pointing to the fact that two separate jurors have sent notes up to the judge.
Wachs agreed that there had been a large number of objections but not an “inordinate” amount.
“This is obviously a hotly contested case,” he said, and he noted he had heard “questionable” objections from both sides.
The judge said it hadn’t reached the point where he needs to step in — yet.
Defense expert: Ramos has mild to moderate autism
A neurologist who examined the Capital Gazette gunman twice — including earlier this year — said Jarrod Ramos has mild to moderate autism spectrum disorder and suffered from paranoid fixed delusions that the Capital Gazette was engaged in a conspiracy against him.
Dr. Thomas Hyde, a behavioral neurologist and the chief medical officer of the Lieber Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, testified Friday during the trial to determine whether Ramos is criminally responsible for the June 2018 shooting rampage in the Annapolis newsroom.
Hyde said he was asked to evaluate Ramos by his defense attorneys.
Based on his evaluation, Hyde said Ramos was socially isolated, didn’t have any close adult relationships and didn’t show the normal empathetic response to others.
Hyde also said when he interviewed Ramos the first time in January 2019, he described as almost emotionless — “a flat canvas” — but Ramos was “quite verbose” in sharing his view that the local prosecutor and the Capital Gazette were engaged in a conspiracy against him because he hadn’t received jail time in his 2011 harassment conviction, which eventually spiraled into a years-long legal battle before the shooting.
“He went on and on and on,” the doctor told defense attorney Katy O’Donnell in testimony Friday. “I had to interrupt him. He was going to go on endlessly.”
Regarding his lack of meaningful relationships, the doctor said Ramos appeared to have almost no social life. “I think the cat was the most important thing in his life,” he said.
However, under cross-examination, prosecutors picked apart the doctors’ two reports — the 2019 report was just three pages — as being overly reliant on Ramos’ word. Aside from the observation and interview of Ramos, the only other person interviewed was Ramos’ younger sister, who testified earlier in the trial.
Assistant Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney David Russell pointed out neither of the two reports contained interviews with other family members, neighbors or correctional staff. The reports were based solely on about three hours of interviews with Ramos and an hour-long interview with Ramos’ sister. Russell also played a clip from a video from the day Ramos was arrested in which he appeared to be cracking a joke for a detective and an FBI agent.
Hyde said doctors often rely on what patients self-report to make a diagnosis and in follow-up questioning by the defense attorney, the doctor said nothing the prosecutors shared with him in cross-examination, would cause him to change his diagnosis.
2 sides of Capital Gazette gunman: ‘Not normal’ or ‘poker face’?
Day four of the insanity phase of the Capital Gazette gunman’s trial featured two competing portraits of Jarrod Ramos.
Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess characterized him as a poker enthusiast who could “keep a straight face,” suggested he was someone who only wanted people to think he was crazy and was intensely interested in leaving a legacy.
Ramos, 41, has pleaded not criminally responsible to the 2018 newsroom shooting rampage that killed five people — Maryland’s version of an insanity defense —- due to several mental disorders.
When she testified Thursday, Jarrod Ramos’ younger sister, Michelle Jeans, testified her brother lived a lonely, isolated life with few friends or social contacts.
But during cross-examination Friday, she also testified about his hobbies, which included frequently going to midnight movie premieres and other social activities.
Regarding his poker playing, Jeans said her brother traveled to Atlantic City to play poker, played online during his overnight job, and tracked his winnings in an Excel spreadsheet. His goal was to eventually make a career of competitive poker playing, she said.
“He’s got a good poker face, doesn’t he,” Leitess said.
“Yeah,” Jeans replied.
Under Leitess’ questioning, Ramos’ sister said she never saw him exhibit repetitive or odd body movements, such as rocking or bobbing his head or flapping his hands. She said she remembered him stroking his beard a lot and said he had a distinctive gait.
The prosecutor also pointed to comments Jeans made on the day of the shooting rampage when she called police because she suspected her brother was involved.
“He said this really weird … thing,” Jeans told police, according to a transcript of the interview that the prosecutor read for the jury.
Jeans went on to tell police, “He had this idea … You do things in life to leave a mark … You need to do something to be remembered in life.”
Jeans told police she remembered his comments about needing a legacy as a negative thing as an “at-all-costs kind of thing.”
About the shooting, she wondered if it was him “doing something just to leave a legacy, because he’s got nothing,” according to the transcript the prosecutor read.
After reading that part of the transcript, Leitess turned to Ramos’ sister: “This was his legacy, the Capital Gazette murder, wasn’t it?”
Defense attorney Elizabeth Palan objected, meaning Jeans didn’t have to answer.
During her redirect questioning, Palan pointed to other remarks Ramos’ sister made the day she was first interviewed by police.
According to other parts of the transcript that Palan read, Jeans said of her brother, “His brain doesn’t work like other people” and “he’s not normal like other people.”
The defense also entered into evidence a postcard Ramos sent his sister when he was hiking the Appalachian trail in the early 2000s when he was in his mid-20s. The postcard contained a photo of a mountain. The message on the back references “heat-seeking missiles” and burning animals with napalm.
There was an intense back-and-forth between attorneys over comments Jeans made to police about her brother’s Twitter account. At one point, jurors were ushered out of the room as the attorneys haggled over whether her video from the police interview room could be played for jurors. In the end, a brief clip was played.
Jeans is seen at one of a small table, discussing her brother’s Twitter account, on the day of the shooting. She tells police he posted things “that made him look like a psycho.”
She told police her brother, who was suing the Capital Gazette for defamation at the time, responded: “That’s what I want them to feel, for this lawsuit. I want them to think I’m crazy.”
‘I want them to think I’m crazy’
The younger sister of the Capital Gazette gunman said her brother was consumed by a series of long-running legal disputes with the newspaper before he carried out an attack inside the Annapolis newsroom that killed five people.
Jarrod Ramos, 41, has pleaded guilty to the attack but not criminally responsible due to mental illness, and a jury in Anne Arundel County Circuit will decide whether he will be sentenced to prison or to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital.
In the years leading up to the attack, Michele Jeans said her brother would talk almost exclusively of his various lawsuits. The lawsuits included one against a high school classmate who told authorities he sent her harassing and vulgar messages over Facebook, and several others against the Capital Gazette, which reported on his harassment conviction in that case.
“It was all court stuff,” Jeans said of her conversations with her brother before they lost contact in early 2015. “That was 100% of his life — the court stuff.”
She learned he had started a Twitter account to tweet about legal filings he had made and, apparently, attempt to clear his name. Another Twitter account he created contained the name of a Maryland judge who had ruled against him in an appeal of his defamation case and contained bizarre material.
Jeans told defense attorney Elizabeth Palan she tried to be gentle with her brother in expressing disapproval of his tweets, because she didn’t want him to cut off contact with her, as he had done with other family members. But Jeans said there was one posting that she said she told him made him look crazy.
“I left that conversation feeling he was happy that whoever was reading that would be intimidated or scared of him,” Jeans said, adding her brother told her the Capital Gazette’s lawyers “ would be off their game because they were intimidated,” she said.
Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess seized on this in her cross-examination of Jeans, appearing to suggest it was evidence Ramos was only feigning his act because he, apparently, he thought it would help him in the courtroom.
The prosecutor pulled up a transcript of an interview Jeans had given police on the day of the shooting.
In that interview, when Jeans recounted the time she confronted her brother with the particularly bizarre tweet, she told police he responded, “I want them to think I’m crazy.”
Defense attorneys say Ramos suffers from several mental disorders and was deranged and delusional at the time of the killings. During her testimony Thursday, Jeans painted a picture of her brother as a socially awkward loner who never had very many friends in childhood or as an adult.
But Colt Leitess in her cross-examination of Jeans elicited other parts of his childhood and upbringing that appear completely normal: That he had close childhood friends, tried out for a recreational league football team as a teen, played on a chess club team and joined a running club to prepare for hiking the Appalachian trail in his early 20s. During the trail hike, he apparently made close enough friends that he was given a nickname: Gizmo, Colt Leitess said.
The prosecutor’s cross examination was cut short Thursday afternoon by a tornado warning in Annapolis. The trial resumes Friday.
Gunman’s younger sister takes stand
Jarrod Ramos’ sister took the stand Thursday, telling jurors the Capital Gazette gunman never had very many friends growing up, was socially awkward, and “disowned” his mother as an adult over a dispute over a utility shut-off.
Michelle Jeans, who’s about 2 and ½ years younger than Ramos, became briefly emotional at the beginning of her testimony, covered her face with her hands and dabbed her eyes with her a tissue.
She said she hadn’t talked to her brother for a few years before he went on the shooting rampage and when she saw news coverage in June 2018, she called the police.
“I was calling because I believed Jarrod was involved in the shooting,” she told defense attorney Elizabeth Palan during questioning Thursday.
Ramos’ sister also discussed their childhood together. Their father worked for the Defense Department and the family relocated to an American military base in Yorkshire, England, between 1989 and 1992.
When they returned, Ramos was heading into Arundel High School.
“I don’t remember him really having a social life at all during that period. There were never any friends over or going places,” she said.
Ramos always earned good grades, she said, calling him “accomplished,” which made their father proud, but otherwise she said their father was emotionally distant.
After graduating from high school, Ramos attended Capitol College and studied computer engineering but he didn’t earn his degree right away.
In the early 2000s, his grandmother died, which deeply affected Ramos, she said. Ramos’ relationship with their grandmother was almost as close as a mother-son relationship, she said.
After her death, Ramos went on a nine-month Appalachian Trail hike, his sister said.
Later, after their parents divorced, Ramos and their mother were still living in their childhood home in Odenton, Maryland. But a fight over the utilities getting shut off by mistake led him to move out.
“He felt that she had done that on purpose,” his sister said. “He was very upset by that.” She added, “He pretty much disowned her at that point.”
Eventually, he moved in with his sister, and then to his studio apartment in Laurel, Maryland, in about 2004. He lived there, alone, up until the time of the shootings, she said.
She never heard him mention having a girlfriend, rarely mentioned co-workers and she said she thought she was his only friend.
At one point, she said he was working a network-monitoring job that required him to work an overnight shift. He also played poker and at one point, hoped to earn enough money from his winnings, to use as his primary source of income.
Sometimes, he would drive to Atlantic City to play poker in casinos and sleep in his car if he stayed overnight.
More legal wrangling over expert’s ‘script’
The third day of Jarrod Ramos’ criminal responsibility trial in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Circuit Court began with further intense legal jockeying over the testimony of a defense expert who was accused of reading from a “script” while she discussed mental health disorders on Wednesday.
Dr. Joanna Brandt, who used to conduct criminal responsibility evaluations for years at Maryland’s Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital and has been a board-certified forensic psychiatrist for 30 years, hasn’t examined Ramos but was called by the defense as a “teaching witness” to discuss how mental disorders are diagnosed.
During her testimony Wednesday, Assistant State’s Attorney David Russell and Judge Michael Wachs said they both noticed Brandt appearing to refer to documents on the witness stand as she provided answers to questions posed by defense attorney Matthew Connell.
Both the prosecutor and the judge referred to the typed pages Brandt had on the witness stand as appearing like a “script” with questions and answers typed out.
In arguments before the judge Thursday morning while the jury was out of the room, Connell, the defense attorney, insisted there was no wrongdoing and that, though he and the doctor had prepared extensively for her testimony and he provided her with a list of questions he planned to ask, he didn’t give her a script.
Connell also strenuously objected to the prosecutor being able to cross-examine Brandt about the documents and calling it a “script.” He called it a “loaded term.” He said they were notes she had prepared for herself on the stand and not answers the defense had supplied for her.
The judge replied: “It is inappropriate to bring a script to the stand and read from it … You can’t do that. She sat in front of us and did that. ”
When the doctor retook the stand later Thursday morning, she said the documents she was referring to on the stand weren’t a script, but notes she made for herself that she was “glancing at.” She said she was “looking at key words that would help me give my responses.”
She said she frequently uses notes when she testifies so she can give organized answers. She said those notes hadn’t been shared with anyone.
Earlier, during arguments before the judge, Russell, the prosecutor, said her use of the notes on the stand “seems hinky to the state.”
Defense witness accused of reading from script during testimony
There was some unexpected legal wrangling in the Capital Gazette gunman’s trial Wednesday afternoon after a prosecutor accused a defense expert witness of reading from a script as she testified.
Dr. Joanna Brandt, an experienced forensic psychiatrist, hasn’t examined Jarrod Ramos, 41, but she was testifying in general about the diagnosis of mental disorders.
After about an hour of testifying Wednesday, the jury was escorted out of the room and Brandt was asked to step down from the witness stand and step outside the courtroom.
Assistant State’s Attorney David Russell then moved to strike Dr. Joanna Brandt’s testimony and asked that Brandt be removed from the witness stand, saying she appeared to be reading her answers from a script.
Defense attorney Matthew Connell said he worked extensively to prepare Brandt’s testimony, and he shared all the questions he planned to ask Dr. Brandt, which he called “completely appropriate.”
He said he never saw her looking at the documents on the witness stand.
The judge said he noticed the doctor referring to papers that he said read “Question” and “Answer” bolded and underlined on the page while she testified and it appeared to match word for word what she was saying.
“I can’t help noticing you guys are turning pages at the same time!” Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs said to the defense attorney. “Where did she get that script?”
Connell replied: “You’ve practiced law, your honor. Lawyers and witnesses prepare testimony together.” He added, “I never prepared a script.”
He said similar occurrences happen when police officers take the stand and read from their reports.
Judge Wachs said, “I get the witness preparation … What I don’t get is the two of you having a matching script.”
He added, “You’re walking a really fine line, Mr. Connell.”
In the end, the judge denied prosecutors’ motion to strike the doctor’s testimony for now, but he said Russell, the prosecutor, would be allowed to question Brandt about the script when he cross-examines her Thursday.
Brandt then returned to the witness stand and resumed her testimony.
8-hour police interview video: Quiet gunman refuses to answer detective’s questions then eats Wendy’s burger
For eight hours after he was taken into custody following the shooting rampage in the Capital Gazette newsroom in June 2018, Jarrod Ramos sat stone-faced and mostly quiet in an Anne Arundel County police interview room, as a detective and an FBI agent tried to cajole him to “tell your story.”
At one point, a detective brings Ramos a plain cheeseburger from Wendy’s at his request.
Anne Arundel Detective Kelly Harding and FBI Special Agent Autumn Brown are the only members of law enforcement to have interviewed Ramos after the shooting attack.
Several excerpts of the roughly eight-hour video were played in Anne Arundel County Circuit on Wednesday, the second day of Ramos’ trial. He has pleaded guilty to the killings but not criminally responsible due to mental illness.
After being discovered lying under a desk in the Capital Gazette newsroom, surrounded by some of the bodies of employees he had shot and killed, Ramos was taken to the county’s criminal investigation division building in Crownsville, Maryland.
The attack unfolded shortly after 2:30 p.m. on June 28, 2018, and time-stamps on the surveillance video show him sitting handcuffed at a small table at 3:40 p.m. that day.
Ramos is asked several times for his name.
“You obviously have a purpose,” Harding tells Ramos. “You don’t want people to know your story?”
Ramos refuses to identify himself but asks for water several times and, each time, a cup of water is retrieved and placed before him.
At 4:19 p.m. an evidence collection technician takes photos of Ramos as he sits in the interview room. She takes pictures of his hands and swabs them for gunshot residue samples.
“When is the last time you handled a firearm?” the technician asks. “What is your occupation currently? Any hobbies?”
Ramos remains silent.
A few minutes later, he is changed into a metallic Tyvek protective jumpsuit and his clothing is recovered as evidence.
At 4:36 p.m., Hardy again presses him for his name and other identifying information.
In a low voice, Ramos replies: “Why don’t you ask them?”
He then tells her the names of two Capital Gazette employees — an editor, Rick Hutzell, and Tim Thomas, the publisher.
The detective asks if Rick Hutzell is one of the people Ramos shot. “As far as I know, Rick Hutzell is still alive,” Ramos said in a low, gravelly voice.
Shortly before 6 p.m. that day, Hardy and the FBI agent learn Ramos’ identity and tell him, through court records, they have learned he filed a lawsuit against the newspaper.
At 6:12 p.m., Ramos tells Hardy he’s hungry and she takes his Wendy’s order. Earlier, she had brought in a few snacks, but he referenced having a peanut allergy.
Some of his most voluble comments on the video are in reference to his food allergies. He said his peanut allergy was the worst one. “Technically, I have an allergy to milk, but I can tolerate it in small doses … I still eat cheese just not to excess,” he said.
At 7:08 p.m., Hardy arrives with his cheeseburger.
Hardy told defense attorney Elizabeth Palan she didn’t have any strategy in questioning Ramos.
“My strategy is just to listen to whatever anybody wants to tell me,” she said.
But by 7:45 p.m., she said she and the FBI agent decided to change their approach in their questioning of Ramos.
At first, Hardy appears to be trying to ingratiate herself with Ramos by mentioning times she felt the media — and the Capital Gazette, specifically — hadn’t been fair to her or had misrepresented the facts.
“If you leave it up to the media, they skew it and they turn it anyway they want,” she said on the video. She later said she was trying to get Ramos to talk not that she agreed with those statements.
She told Ramos the media was already getting details about the attack and his arrest wrong, referencing an early — erroneous — report that he attempted to alter his fingerprints so he couldn’t be identified.
“Like, where they did they come up with that stuff?” she said.
In the video, Ramos appears to crack a smile and even chuckle. “Are you the anonymous source?” he says to the FBI agent.
At 9:48 p.m., Hardy comes back into the room to tell Ramos she had talked to Hutzell, the Capital editor.
“I don’t know if you’re gonna like it,” Hardy said. “Frankly, he didn’t even know your name. He has no idea why you decided to come there today.”
She added, “so if you have a story then you need to tell it, because they don’t even know you or remember you or barely even remember the lawsuit.”
At 9:55 p.m., Harding and Brown, the FBI special agent, change tack again.
“Being nice wasn’t working” Hardy said. “Maybe we should be a little more forceful in our words.”
Brown remarks on how Ramos was found by officers apparently hiding under a desk.
Autumn Brown: “You lay there like a bitch,” she said.
Ramos does not appear to react.
At 11:23 p.m., Hardy presented him with the statement of charges she had drawn up, charging him with five counts of first-degree murder. The video shows him holding up the papers and reading them before placing them down on the table.
At 11:40 p.m. Hardy is seen removing his leg irons, so he can be transported to the western district police station for booking — almost eight hours to the minute since detectives first began questioning him.
During cross-examination of the detective, Assistant State’s Attorney David Russell noted that, aside from not answering the detective’s questions, the detective said she never saw Ramos exhibiting any bizarre or repetitive behaviors.
Police bodycam shows Capital Gazette shooter’s arrest: ‘He was calm’
In the second day of Capital Gazette gunman Jarrod Ramos’ trial, jurors saw more body camera footage from a police officer who responded to the newsroom shooting in June 2018.
The body-worn camera of Wesley Callow, an Annapolis City Police officer who was still in field training on the force at the time, showed the carnage inside the newsroom as well as the arrest of Jarrod Ramos, who had shot his way inside the newsroom with a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun and killed five people.
Under cross-examination from Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, Officer Callow said Ramos was calm and compliant after officers discovered him lying face down half under a desk.
When officer asked for his name, he replied, “No.” But he followed officers’ commands, and later helped officers remove the military-style boots he was wearing, while sitting in the back of a patrol car. Leitess, the prosecutor, drew attention to the fact that Ramos pulled his foot out of the way of the patrol car when an officer went to close it.
Leitess asked, “He was calm, wasn’t he?” The officer responded, “Very.”
She also noted that Ramos had apparently removed a ponytail holder from his hair before he was taken into custody. Responding officers via police radio had been instructed to look for a man with a long ponytail. Employees at a suite across from the newsroom’s entrance saw Ramos, wearing a long ponytail, shoot through the glass doors into the Capital Gazette suite, and called 911.
Leitess asked the officer, “Did he ever seem confused? Any unusual behavior that you noticed?” The officer responded, “No.”
Ramos’ attorneys have argued to jurors Ramos was beset by “deranged, delusional” thoughts at the time of the shooting, fixated on an unsuccessful defamation suit he had filed against the newspaper. They also say Ramos suffers from several mental disorders.
Ramos has pleaded not criminally responsible for the killings due to mental illness.
Chilling greeting card
In addition to video of part of the attack itself, attorneys in the Capital Gazette shooters trial revealed the contents of a CD Jarrod Ramos mailed on the day on the attack that apparently contained his extensive and methodical planning for the attack.
On the day of the shooting, Ramos sent four letters. One of them was a greeting card and a CD mailed to Eric Hartley, a former Capital Gazette reporter who had initially written about Ramos’ 2011 harassment conviction and over which Ramos filed an unsuccessful defamation suit.
The greeting card text read: “Smile. It’s your day and all eyes are on you.”
The CD contained several files, including evidence Ramos had staked out the Gazette newsroom well before the attack. One of the files was video Ramos shot of a back entrance to the building the newspaper was housed in that Ramos ended up barricading, which blocked employees from exiting during the shooting rampage. The video was shot some time in 2017, according to lead detective Jason DePietro, with the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
According to the files on the disc, Ramos also obtained blueprints of the newsroom’s general layout from the property manager that owned the building and pieced together more details of the newsroom’s layout based on publicly accessible photos posted on the newspaper website and perhaps the newspaper’s Facebook page.
The CD files referenced “high value targets.”
There were also several files containing articles from 2013 to 2018 about the Capital Gazette’s community editorial board which met Thursdays from 1-3 p.m.
Some of the files contained photos of a woman who was recently named to the community editorial board with her children. Each of the four photos, which depicted the woman’s children, was labeled “orphan.”
Ramos carried out the attack on Thursday June 28, 2018, shortly after 2:30 p.m. although it does not appear the community editorial board was meeting at the time.
Ramos also wrote a letter to a Maryland judge — addressed to the judge’s wife — who had previously ruled against Ramos in his defamation lawsuit.
That letter stated: “Welcome … to your unexpected legacy. You should have died. Friends forever, Jarrod Ramos.”
Defense attorney Katy O’Donnell said Ramos was deranged and delusional at the time of the attack, believing he had been persecuted by the newspaper and the Maryland court system over his failed defamation suit against the paper. She also said he suffers from several mental disorders.
Ramos has pleaded not criminally responsible for the attack citing mental illness.
Graphic video of attack played for jurors in Capital Gazette gunman’s trial
Jurors in the Capital Gazette shooter’s trial Tuesday were shown graphic video and photos of the attack showing Jarrod Ramos opening fire in the Annapolis newsroom in June 2018 as a few desperate employees attempted to escape the gunfire.
The surveillance video from inside the Capital Gazette newsroom was shown Tuesday on the first day of the trial to determine whether Ramos is criminally responsible for the killings. He has pleaded not criminally responsible for the attack citing mental illness.
The video, which was taken June 28, 2018, inside the Capital Gazette suite in the building at 888 Bestgate Road, was played as defense attorney Elizabeth Palan questioned the lead detective in the case, Jason DePietra with the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
The video shows Ramos outside the double glass doors at the entrance to the Capital Gazette trying the door handles a few times before shooting his way inside, leaving shattered glass in the entranceway.
In the video, Ramos is wearing shooting goggles and a shoulder sling supporting a twelve-gauge Mossberg shotgun outfitted with a flash light and a laser sight. Stepping through the shattered doorway, he fires two shots almost immediately upon entering, striking sales assistant Rebecca Smith. The video shows Smith, after being shot, climbing over the edge of a desk and attempting to crawl over the shattered glass to the front door, but she appears to be gravely wounded.
The video also shows a few employees who survived the attack running frantically over the broken glass and through the shattered front doors.
One of them, reporter Paul Gillespie, is seen making his escape. The video — as well as still images taken from the video — show laser sights on the wall near where Gillespie was running followed by four bullet holes in the wall where he narrowly missed being shot.
Another video angle shows a back entrance where employees are desperately trying to escape but find the way blocked. Before opening fire at the main entrance, Ramos had placed a “Barracuda” device under the door, which prevented employees from exiting the back door, attorneys said.
One woman fell and hit her head on the blocked back door and appeared briefly dazed before running away and hiding just moments before Ramos entered the frame with the shotgun. She survived.
Later, the video shows heavily armed SWAT officers securing the scene and leading out surviving employees. Crouched down and with their hands on each other’s backs.
Ramos, who called 911 to report the shooting himself, hid under a desk and waited for police.
None of the videos shown in court Tuesday depict that particular moment. However, body-worn camera footage from Wesley Callow, with the Annapolis City Police Department, who responded to the scene of the shooting, shows officers discovering Ramos lying half underneath a desk.
The bodycam footage shows Ramos calmly sitting on the floor, before being handcuffed and walked out of the building past the bodies of some of the people he had shot.
The attack unfolded in just a matter of minutes, according to a rough timeline described by Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, who cross-examined the police detective.
The timeline is based on surveillance video and a record of 911 calls.
2:21 p.m.: Surveillance video from a nearby bank shows Ramos pulling into the Bestgate parking lot in a rented Kia Rio.
2:33 p.m.: Surveillance video from inside the Bestgate building shows Ramos putting the Barracuda device in the rear newsroom door.
Just a few moments later, surveillance video from the front entranceway shows Ramos trying the door handles and then shooting the glass doors out.
2:34 p.m.: Employees in an insurance office across the hallway from the Gazette office call 911.
2:37 p.m.: Surveillance video shows police in the lobby of the Bestgate
2:37 p.m.: Ramos logs on to a newsroom computer and tweets out, “F*** you, leave me alone.” This is a reference to a line from the original 2011 Capital reporter’s article about Ramos’ harassment conviction. Ramos was alleged to have messaged that phrase to the woman he was convicted of harassing. He was fixated on that particular phrase, according to his defense attorneys because he thought it made him seem delusional.
2:38 p.m.: Ramos calls 911. The call is routed to Baltimore City Fire Department. Ramos tells the dispatcher: “I’m the shooter. The shooting’s over. I’m unarmed.” He then left the phone off the hook.
2:42 p.m.: Officers on the surveillance video are seen coming up to the Gazette’s shattered front entrance.
2:51 p.m. Ramos is discovered lying under a desk.
Defense opening: Delusional, obsessed Capital Gazette shooter carried out attack after cat’s death
For several years before the Capital Gazette newsroom shooting, Jarrod Ramos was beset by deranged and delusional thoughts, believing the Annapolis newspaper and the entire Maryland court system were conspiring against him after he lost a defamation suit, his defense attorney said in opening statements Tuesday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.
Ramos, 41, pleaded guilty to killing five people in the June 2018 shooting attack but has pleaded not criminally responsible, citing mental illness.
After exhausting all his appeals in his defamation case and filing a bizarre series of legal motions, Ramos believed he was justified in the bloody attack, defense attorney Katy O’Donnell told jurors.
In her opening statement of more than an hour, O’Donnell didn’t shy away from the graphic nature of his crime.
“Jarrod Ramos committed a grievous act at the Capital Gazette, a grievous act that resulted in tragic and senseless murder,” O’Donnell said as a photo of the victims flashed on a screen in the courtroom. She added, “His act was willful, deliberate and premeditated … it was methodically planned, not for several days, but for almost two years.”
“He is guilty,” the defense attorney bluntly told jurors. “He is guilty and he is not criminally responsible.”
She said several psychologists and psychiatrists would testify during the trial that Ramos suffers from a variety of mental and neurological disorders, including autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, delusional disorder, schizotypal personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
She noted, however, that the medical experts testifying for the defense and the prosecution don’t agree on Ramos’ mental state, and that it will be up to the jury to decide which they find most convincing.
In this type of trial, the defense has the burden of proving that Ramos is not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.
“The emotional impact of the is case is staggering,” O’Donnell said. “It’s staggering. We’re going to ask you to focus on the law,” she said.
In addition to a number of mental health experts — including one who examined both serial killer Ted Bundy and Beltway sniper John Muhammad — O’Donnell said the jury would also hear from Ramos’ sister who was estranged from her brother for years before the shooting attack but who will testify that Ramos had never formed any lasting, meaningful relationships in his life. Ramos never had a girlfriend, had never kissed anyone and has never had a sexual relationship, the attorney said.
The only lasting relationship Ramos had formed in his life, his attorney said, was with his cat, Tiger. When the cat died from cancer six weeks before the attack, Ramos “no longer felt fit to live in the world” and believed the “shooting was the only course of action available to him,” the defense attorney said.
Ramos had apparently planned the attack for years because he felt the newspaper — and eventually the Maryland court system — was conspiring against him to destroy his reputation. The newspaper reported in 2011 about Ramos pleading guilty to a criminal harassment charge after he reconnected with a high school classmate on Facebook and then began sending her harassing messages.
Before blasting through the glass doors at the newsroom’s front entrance with a 12-gauge shotgun shortly after 2:30 p.m on June 28, 2018, Ramos barricaded a back entrance and planned to slow down first responders by setting off smoke bombs, his attorney said.
That level of meticulous planning doesn’t negate his mental illness, O’Donnell said, noting that “mental illness doesn’t come in a one-size-fits all.”
O’Donnell said the jurors would hear Ramos’ own description of events, which she called “chilling.”
“It’s chilling because Mr. Ramos does not believe what he did was wrong. Mr. Ramos believes what he did is justified. He’s not sorry for what he did. He believes it’s justified.”
She pointed to other seemingly erratic behavior before the shooting, including selling his car and using his last $1,500 to purchase a lifetime membership to the U.S. Chess Federation.
In addition, on the day of the shooting, Ramos mailed a letter to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which contained a formal legal motion for reconsideration, seeking to revive his appeal in the defamation lawsuit.
The letter referenced a “blood feud” and indicated he planned to deliver the motion to the newsroom on Bestgate Road on June 28 “with the objective of killing every person present.”
The prosecution reserved its opening statement until after the conclusion of the defense’s case.
Trial set to begin Tuesday with opening statements
Three years after Jarrod Ramos burst into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, and shot and killed five people, a jury is set to decide whether Ramos is criminally responsible for the attack.
The trial begins Tuesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
Ramos, 41, already pleaded guilty in October 2019 to 23 counts related to the June 2018 slayings of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.
However, he has pleaded not criminally responsible for the killings due to mental illness. A plea of not criminally responsible used to be known as the “insanity defense” in Maryland. The jury’s decision will determine whether Ramos is sentenced to prison or a maximum-security psychiatric hospital.
Proceedings begin Tuesday with opening statements by defense attorneys and the State’s Attorney for Anne Arundel County — coming almost three years to the day from the bloody attack. In this type of trial, the burden of proof is on the defense, which must convince the jury by a standard called the preponderance of the evidence — meaning it’s more likely than not — that Ramos is not criminally responsible.
On Monday, the third anniversary, officials unveiled a new public memorial to the victims, called the “Guardians of the First Amendment,” which feature an engraving of the front page of the Capital Gazette newspaper from the day after the attack.
Over three days last week, a jury of eight men and four women was selected, with potential jurors quizzed on their feelings about mass shootings and mental health issues among other questions.
Jury seated in Capital Gazette trial
The jury in the Capital Gazette shooter’s trial is now seated: eight men and four women.
The jury will decide whether Jarrod Ramos is criminally responsible for the shooting attack that killed five people in 2018.
Ramos has already pleaded guilty to the killings but has pleaded not criminally responsible, citing mental illness.
Six alternate jurors were also chosen — two men and four women.
In earlier phases of the selection process, in which potential jurors were asked about their feelings about mass shootings, firearms and mental health issues, potential jurors Friday were only asked if they believed they could render a fair and impartial verdict based solely on the evidence presented in court.
The trial begins Tuesday with opening statements — one day after the three-year anniversary of the attack.
The trial will follow a slightly different structure than a regular criminal trial, in which the prosecution has the burden of proof and presents its case first.
In a criminal responsibility trial, the defense introduces evidence and calls witnesses first. In Ramos’ trial, his attorneys have the burden of proving the defendant is not criminally responsible by what’s known as the preponderance of the evidence.
That means that a jury finds it more likely than not that a defendant is not criminally responsible because of mental illness — a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt.
After seating Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs instructed the jurors, telling them not to discuss the case with anyone and to stay away from media coverage and off social media.
“That is taboo,” he said. “I’m not a social media person but some folks probably are. You just need to stay away from it while the trial’s going on.”
A public memorial to the victims is set to be unveiled Monday in downtown Annapolis.
Final day of jury selection set to get underway
The final day of jury selection in the Capital Gazette gunman’s trial is underway Friday. Attorneys in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court will be picking 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of roughly 80 panelists narrowed down earlier this week.
Jurors in the trial will decide whether 41-year-old Jarrod Ramos is criminally responsible for the June 2018 attack on the Capital Gazette newsroom that left five people dead. Ramos has already pleaded guilty to 23 counts related to the attack — including five counts of first-degree murder — but has pleaded not criminally responsible, which used to be known as the “insanity defense.”
The trial is set to begin Tuesday. Monday marks exactly three years since the killings. Officials will unveil a memorial to the victims Monday in downtown Annapolis known as “the Guardians of the First Amendment.”
Jury selection Day 1 recap
The first day of jury selection in the trial of the Capital Gazette gunman wrapped up Wednesday afternoon.
Overall, the proceedings Wednesday yielded 46 “qualified” jurors — meaning they didn’t express any biases or conflicts and were, at this stage, cleared to potentially serve on the jury — out of some 100 people who received summons to appear.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Michael Wachs needs a pool of at least 66 qualified jurors before 12 jurors and six alternates are selected. Wachs told attorneys in the case, he’s hoping for a pool of at least 80 potential jurors.
Wachs seemed to be moving swiftly through the preliminary questioning process of potential jurors. In large groups, the potential jurors were asked 40 specific questions dealing with their knowledge of the case and people involved as well as their feelings about firearms, mass shootings, mental health and the specific plea of not criminally responsible that Jarrod Ramos has entered in this case.
In follow-up one-on-one questioning, the potential jurors are asked more probing questions.
Wachs has repeatedly reminded jurors that guilt in the case was already determined when Ramos, in October 2019, pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and more than a dozen other charges in the June 2018 attack on the Capital Gazette newsroom.
The sole duty of jurors is to decide whether or not Ramos is criminally responsible for the killings, the judge said. In the past, a plea of not criminally responsible was known as the insanity defense.
Wachs eliminated a number of potential jurors after they voiced opinions questioning the legitimacy of Ramos’ plea of not criminally responsible or in other cases where when, directly asked if they could be fair and impartial, they said no.
Several times, defense attorneys for Ramos sought to strike potential jurors citing potential bias, including an Annapolis City police officer and a woman who formerly worked as a mental health clinician but the judge denied their efforts.
A note on timing: Jury selection is set to continue Thursday. The judge said he hopes to have a jury seated by Friday afternoon. The trial is set to start Tuesday with opening statements, and the judge is telling potential jurors they should prepare for the trial to last 10 business days.
Monday marks the three-year anniversary of the attack. City leaders are set to unveil a “Guardians of the First Amendment” memorial Monday to the victims of the attack in downtown Annapolis on Monday.
Other things we learned Wednesday: While the bulk of the trial will consist of testimony from doctors and mental health professionals, the judge has told potential jurors that graphic photos and at least one video showing part of the attack will also be introduced as evidence.
In addition, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess told the judge the prosecution has prepared a large model of the Capital Gazette newsroom that will be wheeled into the courtroom and that will be presented to jurors to aid prosecutors, presumably, as they discuss details of the attack.
Jurors quizzed on feelings about mental health, mass shootings
Jurors in the trial of the Capital Gazette shooter trial will be shown graphic photos of the crime scene and at least one video, apparently, of the shooting itself, the judge in the case told potential jurors Wednesday.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs quizzed dozens of people in the first panel of potential jurors Wednesday morning. All told, more than 250 people will be summoned to the courthouse as potential members of the jury pool.
The potential jurors were asked whether they would be swayed by the graphic nature of the evidence — along with a host of other questions probing whether the potential jurors could remain fair and impartial in determining whether 41-year-old Jarrod Ramos is criminally responsible for the killings of five people in the Gazette newsroom in June 2018.
Ramos, who was alleged to have held a long-running grudge against the newspaper after it reported on a stalking case he was convicted in, has already pleaded guilty to the killings. But he has pleaded not criminally responsible due to mental illness.
A plea of not criminally responsible used to be known as an “insanity defense.”
The bulk of the case — the judge estimated it at 98% of the case — will be testimony by doctors and other mental health experts.
However, the photos and video will “literally show what happened, which may have an impact on whether a juror believes the defendant was or was not criminally responsible,” Wachs said.
He added, “I realize they’re not easy to look at for anyone but the question is whether you can — and we ask jurors to do this day in and day out — set aside your personal feelings … and be fair and impartial,” the judge said.
‘If you kill someone, you go to jail’
During the proceedings Wednesday, nearly every member of the jury panel said they had heard about the case, but the judge told them that would not automatically exclude them from serving on the jury.
“Pretty much everyone has heard about the case, I’ll tell you that,” Wachs said. “So the question is whether you can decide the case based solely on what you hear in the courtroom, not the media. Sometimes the media is not accurate.”
In addition, jurors were asked whether they had strong feelings about firearms, workplace mass shootings and mass shootings in general or strong feelings about a crime of violence perpetrated against the media.
The judge removed several potential jurors over opinions they expressed during the selection process expressing expressed skepticism about the legitimacy of the plea of not criminally responsible.
Regarding Ramos’ plea, one potential juror told the judge she didn’t think she could keep an open mind. “He already said he’s guilty,” she said. “He should pay for what he did and not hide behind mental illness.” She was struck from the jury pool
Another potential juror said, “In my mind, my heart, if you kill someone, you go to jail.”
The judge responded that the law says something different and asked whether the man whether he could put aside those feelings and decide the case impartially.
“That would be hard for me,” the potential juror said. The judge struck that juror.
If the jury finds Ramos criminally responsible for the killings, he’ll be committed to a psychiatric hospital, rather than given a prison sentence.
Jury selection is set to continue through Friday. The judge aims to have at least 66 qualified jurors before 12 jurors and six alternatives are selected.
Opening statements are set to start Tuesday — the day after the third anniversary of the attack.
Jury selection underway
Jury selection got underway Wednesday morning in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, nearly three years after Jarrod Ramos shot and killed five people in an attack on the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis.
Judge Wachs said he hoped to have 12 jurors and 6 alternates selected for the trial by Friday afternoon. For now, the trial is scheduled to last 10 business days after the jury is selected.
Monday, June 28, marks three years since the attack that killed Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiassen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.
The proceedings Wednesday involved winnowing down more than 250 potential jurors called to the red-brick courthouse on Church Circle in historic downtown Annapolis.
Ramos pleaded guilty in October 2019 to nearly dozen counts in the 2018 attack, including five counts of first-degree murder, but has pleaded not criminally responsible, with his attorneys citing mental illness.
“As a result, the only issue for the jury consider in this case is whether defendant Jarrod Ramos is criminally responsible or not criminally responsible,” the judge said to the first panel of prospective jurors, who were asked 40 specific questions touching on the criminal justice system, their knowledge of the crime, opinions about guns and mass shootings and mental health issues.
According to Maryland law, a person is not criminally responsible if, at the time of the crime, the person, because of a mental disorder, “lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.”
Ramos’ pleading used to be known as the “insanity defense.”
During the trial, Ramos’ lawyers have the burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that he is not criminally responsible for his actions.
The “preponderance of the evidence” standard is less than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” prosecutors must meet to contain a conviction; it means the jury believes it is more likely so than not that Ramos is not criminally responsible for his actions.
If Ramos is found to be not criminally responsible, he’ll be committed to a psychiatric hospital, rather than a prison cell.
High-profile trial in COVID-19 times
This second phase of the trial was delayed, in part, because of the coronavirus pandemic, which shuttered Maryland courts for much of last year.
Much of the preliminary groundwork leading up to jury selection Wednesday related to COVID-19-related safety measures and other protocols, including spacing and masks in the courtroom.
In the courtroom Wednesday, tape marks on the carpet blocked out spacing indicators. Potential jurors snaked through the courtroom to maintain 6 feet of distance.
People who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks or socially distance. However, people who are not vaccinated are required to do both. Jurors are not being asked about their vaccination status.
Ramos, 41, entered the courtroom wearing a dark cloth face masks and what appeared to be a dark blue or gray jail jumpsuit and took a seat at the defense table.
In pretrial hearings, defense attorneys had expressed concern about requiring Ramos to wear a mask because of the importance of jurors being able to observe his reactions. The judge had suggested Ramos wear a clear plastic face mask. However, Wednesday morning, defense attorney Matthew Connell said the clear mask was fogging up Ramos’ glasses and Ramos had opted to wear the dark cloth face mask.
The judge also asked if Ramos was given the opportunity to wear “civilian clothes.” Connell said he was but did not wish to wear them.
Jury selection begins this week for trial of Capital Gazette shooter
Three years after journalists were gunned down inside the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, a jury will be seated this week to hear the trial of the man responsible.
Jarrod Ramos, 41, admitted he killed five journalists inside the newsroom, pleading guilty to all 23 counts he faced back in October 2019. This week, attorneys will select the jurors who will decide whether Ramos is criminally responsible for the attack. His lawyers say Ramos is not responsible for the attack due to insanity.
The jurors will begin the selection process Wednesday, and the trial will begin once they are seated.