Jury Seated for Insanity Phase of Capital Gazette Shooting Case

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A jury was selected on Friday for the second phase of a trial for a man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper to decide whether he is criminally responsible due to his mental health.

The jury of eight men and four women was seated on the third day of jury selection in Annapolis, Maryland. Six alternates also were selected.

Jarrod Ramos pleaded guilty in 2019 to all 23 counts against him in the attack at the Capital Gazette nearly three years ago, but he has pleaded that he is not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

Opening statements are scheduled for Tuesday. Judge Michael Wachs has estimated the case could take 10 business days to present to the jury.

The judge said this week that a “vast majority” of the case will be testimony from mental health experts called by defense attorneys and prosecutors.

Under Maryland’s insanity defense 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 is found not criminally responsible, he would be committed to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital instead of prison.

Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters died in the attack on June 28, 2018. On Monday, a memorial will be held at an Annapolis park on the third anniversary of the shooting.

Ramos, 41, had a well-documented history of harassing the newspaper’s journalists. He filed a lawsuit against the paper in 2012, alleging he was defamed in an article about his conviction in a criminal harassment case in 2011. The defamation suit was dismissed as groundless.

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