ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The second phase of a trial to determine whether a man who has pleaded guilty to killing five people at a Maryland newspaper is not criminally responsible due to his mental health will be delayed until June, a judge ruled Monday.
Judge Laura Ripken set jury selection begin June 2 during a hearing in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis, Maryland. She set aside June 8-23 for the sanity phase of Jarrod Ramos’ trial. It’s the latest delay after repeated postponements in the case relating to the June 2018 shooting at the Capital Gazette’s office.
Attorneys for Ramos say the delay is needed, because William Davis, one of his three lawyers, cannot continue with the case due to medical issues. They say a new attorney has agreed to take his place, but more time is needed for the lawyer to prepare.
The sanity phase of the trial had been scheduled for March.
Anne Colt Leitess, the state’s attorney handling the case, said she had contacted family members of victims about the delay.
“This is very difficult for them,” Leitess said, though she added that she understood the need for the delay during the hearing in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis, Maryland.
Ramos attended the hearing in green jail clothes. The judge asked him if he had any questions about the delay, and he said he did not. She also asked him if the postponement was OK with him.
“Yes, it is,” he answered.
Ramos pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible in October to killing John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith in the newsroom rampage.
Ramos 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 Capital published a story describing allegations by a woman who said Ramos harassed her online for months. The defamation suit was dismissed as groundless, and Ramos railed against the staff at the newspaper in profanity-laced tweets.
During a pretrial hearing in October, Ripken said a report from the state health department concluded Ramos is legally sane. But Ramos’ lawyers say experts for the defense have reached a different conclusion.