Gunman found criminally responsible for killing 5 at paper
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A jury on Thursday found the gunman who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper criminally responsible for his actions, rejecting defense attorneys’ mental illness arguments.
The verdict means Jarrod Ramos will be sentenced to prison, not a maximum-security mental health facility, for one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in the U.S. Prosecutors are seeking five life sentences without the possibility of parole.
The jury needed less than two hours to find that Ramos, 41, could understand the criminality of his actions and conform his conduct to the requirements of the law when he attacked the Capital Gazette newsroom in 2018.
Survivors and family members of victims, some with tears in their eyes, embraced outside the courtroom and applauded prosecutors and jurors as they walked by after the verdict.
“It’s been a never-ending nightmare,” said Cindi Rittenour, the sister of Rebecca Smith, who died in the attack. “And then hearing that today - just all my anxiety over it, all the wonderings, the unknowns, it’s all gone away now, and all I feel is just relief and happiness. I feel like my sister can finally start to rest in peace.”
Danielle Ohl was a reporter at the Capital Gazette when Ramos attacked and came to Annapolis to be with her former colleagues for the verdict.
“It’s the culmination of three excruciating years, waiting for a result in the trial and waiting to find out if the man who kind of ruined our families and newsroom would go somewhere with the potential to be released,” Ohl said.
Paul Gillespie, a photojournalist at the newspaper, said he suffers from PTSD, anxiety and depression since the attack. In court, he described feeling the breeze of shotgun pellets whiz by him as he ran out of the newsroom to safety.
“With this being over now, I’m hoping things get a little better, but I don’t know what the future holds,” Gillespie said.
Ramos already had pleaded guilty to all 23 counts against him in 2019 but pleaded not criminally responsible - Maryland’s version of an insanity plea. The second phase of his trial, which lasted 12 days, was largely a battle between mental health experts called by defense attorneys and prosecutors.
Ramos developed a long-running grudge against the newspaper after an article it published about his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of harassing a former high school classmate in 2011. He filed a lawsuit against the paper in 2012, alleging he was defamed, but it was dismissed as groundless. His appeals failed.