ANNAPOLIS — Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Laura Ripken ruled in a hearing Thursday that defense mental health experts in the Capital Gazette shooting trial will not be made to provide their notes from neurological and psychological testing to the prosecution.
This came after the Anne Arundel State’s Attorney’s Office filed a motion requesting access to the materials that defense experts used to make conclusions concerning the defendant’s mental health, should the case reach the criminal responsibility phase of proceedings.
On June 28, 2018, a gunman fired through the doors of the Capital Gazette newsroom and fatally wounded journalists Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, Robert Hiaasen and John McNamara, as well as advertising assistant Rebecca Smith. Six other Capital Gazette employees present in the office during the attack survived.
Jarrod Ramos is facing five counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and six counts of assault, among other charges. He has pleaded not guilty — and not criminally responsible, which is akin to an insanity plea in the state of Maryland.
If he is found criminally guilty, the second plea would be heard in a separate trial.
State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess wanted access to notes available from retained mental health experts concerning conclusions made in a two-page letter and 11-page report for purposes of cross-examination. These analyses are based on interviews with Ramos while he has been incarcerated.
Ripken ruled that it may be appropriate if the expert witnesses are subpoenaed that either side review their notes for purposes of cross-examination. She also ordered that notes from defense experts be turned over to a psychologist at the state’s Clifton T. Perkins center, a maximum-security forensic psychiatric hospital.
Ramos has requested a jury trial in his criminal case, which has set into motion a unique jury selection process. Members of the jury pool will be interviewed individually by Ripken, and the state and defense counsel during a process called “voir dire.” Ramos is expected to be present during the questioning.
More than 300 Anne Arundel County residents gathered at the circuit courthouse late last month to fill out a questionnaire to begin a pool-narrowing process.
Ripken said that matters regarding the voir dire questions will be addressed in hearing scheduled for Monday.
The Capital Gazette became the target of Ramos’ ire in 2011 after a column was published detailing his guilty plea to harassment charges in a case brought against him by a former Arundel High School classmate.
In records from the suit, a woman who had graduated with Ramos in 1997 said that he initially established contact with her over the internet in 2009. While their first interaction was friendly, it later took a turn. According to court documents, the woman, whom Capital News Service is not naming, stated that he told her to kill herself, was collecting information about her in an Excel spreadsheet, and had even gone as far as contacting her employer and friends.
The Capital Gazette published the column about his plea in July 2011, prompting Ramos to levy a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper. The suit was eventually dismissed.
Ramos also filed a suit in 2014, against his harassment victim and her attorney, Brennan McCarthy. It was similarly dismissed.
McCarthy, the Capital Gazette and its staff members, among others, were frequently referenced on a Twitter page in Ramos’ name. The account appeared to go inactive beginning in 2016, tweeting once more on the day of the shooting.
Jury voir dire is scheduled to begin on Oct. 30. The trial to determine Ramos’ guilt is set to begin Nov. 4.