Jarrod Ramos Pleads Insanity After Being Accused of Maryland Newspaper Shooting

May 1, 2019 Updated: May 1, 2019

A key suspect in a Maryland shooting entered an insanity plea on April 29 after being accused of killing five people who worked for the local newspaper back in 2018.

Lawyers advising Laurel resident Jarrod Ramos, 39, have denied the suspect is criminally responsible for the June 28, 2018 death of five people in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, 33 miles southeast of Baltimore.

Ramos’s plea has been changed to not guilty by reason of insanity “because of a mental disorder,” according to a court filing in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. The lawyers also said the accused did not have the “capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct.”

The legal bid came after Ramos was indicted on 23 charges in the attack, including first-degree murder of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Ann Smith, and Wendi Winters. He originally pleaded not guilty.

After the attack, police captured Ramos, who was hiding under a desk at the Capital Gazette office. Authorities accuse Ramos of using a shotgun to blast his way inside the newsroom. He is also charged with attempted murder, assault, and gun crimes.

At a court hearing in April one attorney representing Ramos referred multiple times to his client’s “bizarre language” and “bizarre behavior,” leading up to the mass shooting. William Davis said the accused had “longstanding” mental health issues and a period of “mental health disturbances,” adding a mental health expert has been working with the defense.

In any case the state will conduct an independent evaluation to determine whether Ramos is criminally responsible for his actions. A doctor will write a report with recommendations to be sent to the defense attorneys, prosecutors, and court.

A judge or jury would usually consider whether the defendant was criminally responsible after the trial scheduled for November has ended.

If they rule in Ramos’s favor and find him not criminally responsible, he could be sent to a mental health prison facility. However, if he is deemed to be criminally responsible, prosecutors will push for Ramos to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors claim Ramos carefully planned the attack and barricaded the rear exit of the office to prevent people from escaping.

Ramos also has an extensive history of harassing the newspaper’s journalists since the paper published a story about a woman accusing Ramos of harassing her online for months.

The accused filed a suit against the paper in 2012, claiming he was defamed over his 2011 conviction in a criminal harassment case. The lawsuit was dismissed as groundless and Ramos responded by sending profanity-laden Twitter posts about staff at the newspaper.

In the days after the attack, area judges and an attorney received letters signed with Ramos’s name that threatened the newsroom.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.