ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland judge on Thursday scheduled a March trial to determine whether a man who has pleaded guilty to killing five people at a Maryland newspaper is not criminally responsible because of mental illness.
Judge Laura Ripken scheduled Jarrod Ramos’ trial to start March 4 and last 13 days.
Ramos, 39, pleaded guilty last month to all 23 counts against him, including first-degree murder in the June 2018 shooting at the Capital Gazette that killed John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman and Rob Hiaasen.
Attorneys for Ramos maintain that although he pleaded guilty, their client should not be held criminally responsible, Maryland’s version of an insanity defense.
The trial’s second phase focusing on whether he was not criminally responsible at the time of the shooting had been scheduled to begin this week.
Judge Michael Wachs postponed the case after defense attorneys contended that they need more time to review information prosecutors gave them about mental health witnesses they intend to call to testify before jurors.
During a pretrial hearing last month, Ripken said a report from the state health department concluded Ramos is legally sane. But Ramos’ lawyers say experts on the defense team have reached a different conclusion.
Under Maryland law, a defendant has the burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that he is not criminally responsible for his actions. State law says a defendant is not criminally responsible for criminal conduct if, because of a mental disorder or developmental disabilities, he lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct.
If Ramos were found not criminally responsible, he would be committed to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital.
Ramos, of Laurel, held a longtime grudge against the newspaper, which had written about him pleading guilty to harassing a former high school classmate in 2011. Ramos unsuccessfully sued the writer and the newspaper’s publisher for defamation.
By BRIAN WITTE
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