‘It’s chilling because Mr Ramos does not believe what he did was wrong,’ defence lawyer says during hearing
Jarrod Ramos, 41, has pleaded guilty to killing five people at the newspaper. During a hearing to decide if he will spend the rest of his life in prison or in a mental institution, Mr Ramos’ defence lawyer told the jury that Mr Ramos had “planned the attack for two years” and that he believed that the newspaper was “out to get him”.
Images from the surveillance footage of Mr Ramos entering the newsroom, including using a tactical shotgun to destroy a glassdoor, was shown in the courtroom.
Mr Ramos killed four journalists and a sales assistant in the worst attack on a media outlet in the US.
The jury was shown images of the victims, surveillance footage of the attack, and police body camera video of Mr Ramos coming out from under a desk inside the newsroom and police taking him outside.
Wendi Winters attacked Ramos with a trashcan and subsequently dropped to the floor in a hallway. Gerald Fischman died underneath his desk. Rob Hiaasen was in his cubicle when he died, and John McNamara died in the back of the newsroom. Rebecca Smith died in hospital.
The second stage of the trial started on Tuesday, three years and one day after the shooting took place. Mr Ramos has pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible to the killings, with his lawyer using Maryland’s version of an insanity defence.
The trial is expected to last 10 dias. Defence lawyer Katy O’Donnell said the gunman suffers from autism spectrum disorders and compulsive and delusional disorders, in addition to other issues.
Ms O’Donnell told the jury that Mr Ramos “is guilty of having committed these offences, and his act was willful, deliberate and premeditated”. She said he had researched the target, and joined a chess club – expecting to be put away for a long time following the attack.
But she added that the defence will bring in mental health experts who will argue that Mr Ramos cannot be held responsible under the law because of his mental illness.
“Mr Ramos is guilty, and he is also not criminally responsible,” the attorney said.
Mr Ramos had previously failed in suing the paper for defamation and had made several online threats against the media outlet. He was enraged at the paper because of a 2011 article called “Jarrod wants to be your friend” about a young woman whom Mr Ramos had harassed online.
He unsuccessfully sued the paper in 2012, arguing that the paper had defamed him after it reported on his conviction for harassment. The suit was dismissed as groundless.
Pleading guilty to harassing a former high school classmate, Mr Ramos thought the court had been unjust in dismissing his defamation case against the paper, Ms O’Donnell said.
She added that the jury will hear Mr Ramos’ own version of events and “an eight-year backstory” eventually culminating in the killings.
“We want you to understand the years leading up to this day,” Ms O’Donnell said. “It’s chilling because Mr Ramos does not believe what he did was wrong.”
The Anne Arundel County state’s attorney, Anne Colt Leitess, examined the amount of planning that had gone into the attack, asking a detective to show a device called a barracuda, an item used to barricade a door to make sure victims would not be able to get away.
Ms Leitess also asked the detective about a CD that Mr Ramos had sent the reporter who wrote the article that had enraged him. The CD included his plans to attack the paper when a community meeting was taking place that would include people from outside the newsroom, and it also made clear that Mr Ramos was planning to make “orphans” of the reporter’s kids. The meeting had been cancelled.
The prosecution will also have mental health professionals witness to help make their case. A psychiatrist at the Maryland Health Department, Dr Sameer Patel, evaluated Mr Ramos and found him to be legally sane. A forensic psychiatrist and FBI consultant, Gregory Saathoff, who also found Mr Ramos to be sane, will also be called upon.
This stage of the trial has been postponed several times because of the Covid-19 pandemia.
If Mr Ramos is found to not be criminally responsible, he will be sent to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital. Prosecutors are instead pushing for life in prison without the possibility of parole.