Prosecutors in the case of a man accused of killing five people at a Maryland newspaper can review records relating to his mental health since he has been incarcerated, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Laura Ripken's ruling comes as attorneys in the case have been battling over information they need to share before the November trial of Jarrod Ramos, who is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom.
William Davis, Ramos' lawyer, contended the information is privileged and wouldn't be relevant until a second phase of the trial, if a jury finds Ramos guilty.
But Ripken ruled the privilege doesn't apply in the case of an insanity plea, which she said "is actively being pursued."
Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Anne Leitess said Ramos' mental health is "highly relevant," and information about how Ramos behaved in jail is a crucial part of the case.
"These records are highly probative and can help the state," Leitess said.
Ripken also decided prosecutors can see records of visits received by Jarrod Ramos in a detention center, though names and identifying details will be redacted. Records about phone calls Ramos has received at the detention center also are being released to prosecutors.
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Meanwhile, defense attorneys withdrew a subpoena seeking records relating to a longtime dispute Ramos had with the Capital Gazette from the newspaper's editor, Rick Hutzell, after an attorney representing him informed the defense that the editor did not have any of the information.
However, defense attorneys are still seeking records from Robert Douglas, who represented the newspaper when Ramos sued for alleged defamation. They also are seeking a file on the client of attorney Brennan McCarthy, who represented a woman Ramos was found guilty of harassing, and his sister, Kathleen Kirchner, who shares office space with McCarthy.
A newspaper article in 2011 about the harassment case touched off a yearslong tirade from Ramos against the newspaper.
In court filings, attorneys for the 39-year-old defendant say they are seeking information about observations made by McCarthy concerning their client's mental state.
McCarthy said in court Wednesday that the file is an "incredibly privileged document." He said he plans to seek a protective order from the subpoena. He told the judge he doesn't believe the state has the legal standing to subpoena the document.
The judge did not rule Wednesday on the defense subpoenas.
Capital Gazette employees John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman and Rob Hiaasen were killed in the attack. Ramos was captured hiding under a desk after the June 28, 2018, shooting, police said.