ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A lawyer said Thursday that “evil as all get-out” would be a better way of describing the man accused of fatally shooting five people at a Maryland newspaper, rather than calling him “crazy.”
Brennan McCarthy, who represented a woman harassed by Jarrod Ramos years ago, testified at a pretrial hearing as prosecutors and defense attorneys continued to battle about whether prosecutors properly shared information about the case with the defense. Ramos faces scheduled trial in November on five counts of first-degree murder.
Defense attorneys for Ramos subpoenaed McCarthy, because they believe he may have documents to support the defendant’s plea of not criminally responsible — Maryland’s version of an insanity defense. Defense attorneys say McCarthy told police the day of the June 2018 shooting at the Capital Gazette that he believed Ramos was “crazy.”
But McCarthy told Judge Laura Ripken on Thursday that he is not a mental health expert and implied he didn’t mean to use the word literally with police in describing Ramos.
McCarthy also rebutted arguments from public defender William Davis that he kept regular tabs on Ramos and had longtime knowledge of Ramos’ mental state, because McCarthy was afraid of statements Ramos made on Twitter — both for himself and his sister, Kathleen Kirchner.
“You don’t follow the devil,” McCarthy said. “You hide from him.”
Ramos is accused of blasting into the Capital Gazette’s newsroom with a shotgun and killing Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith, as other employees hid under desks. Police say Ramos was arrested hiding under a desk in the newsroom.
Ramos, 39, had a well-documented history of harassing the Capital Gazette’s staff. He filed a defamation suit against the newspaper in 2012 that was thrown out as groundless, and he often railed against the media outlet in profanity-laced tweets.
His anger at the newspaper began with an online harassment and stalking case stemming from contact with a high school classmate in late 2009 or early 2010. The woman eventually went to police, and Ramos pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge. The newspaper’s story about the case touched off a tirade from Ramos.
Defense attorneys have been arguing for months over issues relating to discovery, a legal process involving evidence exchanges between the defense and the prosecution. Prosecutors say they have gone above and beyond the requirements for sharing information with the defense.
Ripken ruled for McCarthy to submit documents that could be discoverable relating to his former client for her to review and decide whether they should be turned over to the defense. McCarthy, however, said he doesn’t believe he has any, because the case is so old.
Defense attorneys also have been seeking more information from Kirchner. Her husband, Richard Kirchner, who has conducted threat assessments in various jobs with the federal government, had conducted such an assessment in 2014, based on tweets sent by Ramos, after his wife asked him to do so. He said the assessment was done orally, and there is no written document.
He told reporters at the courthouse Thursday that he believed McCarthy and his wife were in danger, and he told his wife to not be involved in the case.
“You need to get off this man’s radar,” he said he recalled telling her.
Richard Kirchner described Ramos as “a classic wound collector,” amassing grievances against people. He described Ramos as being similar to other mass shooters.
“I would absolutely put him in those levels,” he told reporters during a break in the court hearing.
Kathleen Kirchner ended up expressing her concerns to Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess at the time, and asked her to see if a crime had been committed. Leitess wrote in an email that she would have investigators look into it. But defense attorneys say they never received any documents about such an investigation.
Defense attorneys are asking Ripken to sanction prosecutors for failing to turn over documents that should be shared with them, even suggesting that Leitess should be recused from the case. But Leitess vehemently denied the accusation, as the hearing became more heated late Thursday afternoon. Leitess said prosecutors have gone “above and beyond” in releasing information in their possession related to the upcoming trial.
Ripken said she would rule on the matter during another hearing scheduled for Oct. 2.
By BRIAN WITTE
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