Jury Finds Capital Gazette Shooter Criminally Responsible for Killing Five People in 2018Twelve jurors voted unanimously to hold the defendant in the Capital Gazette mass shooting criminally responsible for his actions. The jury consisted of eight men and four women. The family members who attended the trial, which took just under two weeks, thanked the jurors for their verdict.

CBS News reported that that one of the widows of a victim said that the deaths of the five victims affected many more people than the five victims. Families, the State of Maryland, the press, and the country were affected by the shootings.

The formal sentencing of Ramos will take place about eight weeks from the date of the jury’s decision.

A recap of the Capital Gazette shooting

The shooting occurred at the Capital Gazette, an Annapolis daily newspaper, in 2018. The defendant, armed with a shotgun, shot and killed five victims as he walked through the newspaper’s lower lobby. Two other people suffered superficial injuries. The defendant, Jarrod Ramos, was identified through facial recognition – likely either a photograph or a witness.

According to ABC News, Ramos had been involved in a long-running legal fight with the newspaper about a story the newspaper had published about Ramos. The story alleged Ramos had stalked his ex-girlfriend. CBS News stated that dozens of witnesses were called.

Ramos had previously pled guilty to “23 counts related to the mass shooting that killed Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendi Winters.” The defense asserted that Ramos was guilty but not criminally responsible. The jury had to decide if Ramos had a mental disorder at the time of the shooing which caused him to lack “the substantial capacity to either appreciate the criminality of the conduct or conform that conduct to the requirements of the law.”

What does “criminally responsible” mean under Maryland law?

“Criminally responsible” is Maryland’s phrasing for cases where a defendant claims he or she is not responsible for his or her actions by reason of insanity. Under the law:

  1. If a defendant intends to rely on a plea of not criminally responsible, the defendant or defense counsel shall file a written plea alleging, in substance, that when the alleged crime was committed, the defendant was not criminally responsible by reason of insanity under the test for criminal responsibility in § 3-109 of this title.
    1. A written plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity shall be filed at the time provided for initial pleading, unless, for good cause shown, the court allows the plea to be filed later.
  2. The defendant has the burden to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, the defense of not criminally responsible.
  3. If the trier of fact finds that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the criminal act charged, then, if the defendant has pleaded not criminally responsible, the trier of fact separately shall find whether the defendant has established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant was at the time criminally responsible or not criminally responsible by reason of insanity under the test for criminal responsibility in § 3-109 of this title.
  4. A court may not enter a verdict of not criminally responsible unless the defendant or defense counsel has filed a written plea under subsection (a) of this section.

In layman’s terms, what all of this means is that the defense must prove the accused was insane at the time of the criminal action. Even though Ramos originally pled guilty to killing the people at the Capital Gazette, if the jury had found him not criminally responsible, he may have avoided prison time. Since the jury found him criminally responsible, Ramos could spend the rest of his life in a maximum-security prison.

Ramos can request a new trial if he files his request within 10 days from the date of the jury’s decision. The request would have to be based on a showing that there was some major procedural or legal error during the trial. If the request isn’t made in time or is denied, the next stage will be the sentencing phase.

A civil lawsuit has also been filed

Victims can file a legal complaint against defendants for the damages they suffer. They can also file a complaint against any other responsible parties.

CBS Baltimore reported that the families of the five victims have filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Sun (which owned the Capital Gazette), Tribune Publishing (the parent company of the Baltimore Sun), and other defendants for alleged security lapses that gave Ramos the opportunity to enter the newsroom back on June 28, 2018, and open fire. The alleged security lapses include:

  • Failing to ensure the newsroom could not be accessed by anyone from the lobby
  • Failing to install solid doors
  • Failing to have a security guard or front desk person
  • Failing to monitor entry into the newsroom
  • Other acts of negligent security

At Carey Law Office, we represent defendants in Bowie, Crofton, Calvert County, and beyond who are accused of misdemeanors and felonies including homicide. We assert every legal and factual defense that applies. In some cases, we argue that the defendant is not criminally responsible. If the issue of criminal responsibility is raised, we often work with psychiatrists or other experts who can render an opinion on the mental status of the defendant.

Our experienced Bowie and Crofton defense lawyer has the experience and resolve to fight the prosecution. For help with any type of criminal case, call us at 301-464-2500 or use our contact form to make an appointment.