United States

Gunman in 2018 Maryland newspaper massacre found criminally responsible

3 minute read

Jarrod Ramos, suspected of killing five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 28, 2018 is seen in this Anne Arundel Police Department booking photo provided June 29, 2018. Anne Arundel Police/Handout via REUTERS

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July 15 (Reuters) - A Maryland jury on Thursday found the gunman who killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis in 2018 criminally responsible for the massacre, rejecting his insanity defense after just a few hours of deliberation, prosecutors said.

Jarrod Ramos, 41, faces the prospect of life in prison for one of deadliest attacks on a U.S. media outlet.

Ramos pleaded guilty in October 2019 to 23 felony counts, including five counts of first-degree murder, but argued that he was not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

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After a three-week trial made up mostly of dueling mental health experts put on by the defense and the prosecution, jurors returned a sanity verdict for Ramos on the same day the judge handed them the case.

At a briefing outside the Annapolis courthouse after the verdict, Anne Arundel State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess thanked the jury for recognizing that Ramos was sane when he committed his crimes.

"He was clear-headed, he was patient," she said.

The mass shooting took place on June 28, 2018 when Ramos walked into the Gazette's Annapolis newsroom and killed the newspaper's assistant editor, Rob Hiaasen, 59; journalists Wendi Winters, 65, Gerald Fischman, 61, and John McNamara, 56, and sales assistant Rebecca Smith, 34.

"Their loss will forever impact our community but their words and legacy will always remain," Leitess said in a prepared statement.

McNamara's widow, Andrea Chamblee, used the occasion to urge lawmakers to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

"He was a dangerous man with easy access to guns," she told reporters. "Even with this verdict today, our fight is not over."

Ramos had waged a long legal battle with the paper over a column it published about him, and his lawsuit was eventually dismissed.

The trial had been postponed several times, in part because of the pandemic. Had the jury found that Ramos was suffering from a mental disorder at the time, he could have received a sentence committing him to a mental-health institution.

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Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Alistair Bell

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