Jose Luis Magana / AP
Arguments in the trial for Capital Gazette The shooter will begin today – almost three years since Jarrod Ramos opened fire on the Annapolis newspaper, Md.
Five people died in the attack on June 28, 2018: John McNamara, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith. The mass shooting was the deadliest attack on the newsroom in modern American history.
Ramos, now 41, pleaded guilty in 2019 to all 23 counts against him in the attack, but his lawyers will claim he is not criminally responsible for the mental illness.
The trial has been postponed several times due to COVID-19, traffic in the offices of the Public Defender and the State Attorney’s Office, and multiple court hearings.
Here’s what you need to know as the trial goes on:
What do we know about Ramos?
Ramos was reportedly dissatisfied with the newspaper for years and threatened her Messenger after he published a story about him. He sued the paper for defamation in 2012 after journalists wrote about his guilty plea on charges of criminal harassment. That lawsuit was dismissed.
According to the details included in his indictment and news, on the day of the shooting, Ramos traveled from his Laurel, MD, home to the Annapolis newsroom. He had smoke bombs with him, a rifle he had bought years before, and dozens of ammunition.
After the shooting, Ramos called 911 and told the dispatcher, “This is your shooter. The shooting is over. I surrender.” When officers entered the building to look for him, Ramos was found hiding under a table. He said again, “I surrender, I surrender,” and recognized myself as a shooter.
What is the focus of this trial?
At this trial, the jury will have to decide whether Ramos was in fact so mentally ill at the time of the shooting, that he should not be legally responsible for it. District Court Judge Michael Wachs will eventually decide whether to send Ramos to jail or hospital.
The focus of both the defense and the prosecution will be to show evidence of whether Ramos is mentally aware of what he is doing.
Steve Mercer, a former Maryland public defender, said for NPR that Ramos’ defense will most likely focus on his motive and intent.
In Maryland, a defendant is entitled to a verdict of acquittal out of insanity if he proves that at the time of the mental disorder crime he did not fully understand what he was doing.
If that defense is successful, Ramos would be placed in a psychiatric facility for treatment and could be eligible for release in the future if it is determined that he no longer poses a threat to the public.
What happened since the shooting?
Brian Witte / AP
The day before the trial began and the third anniversary of the shooting, the city of Annapolis dedicated a memorial to the five victims.
Memorial, called the Guardians of the First Amendment, consists of five
stone pillars representing the five victims. The memorial plaque also honored the First Amendment.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared June 28 Media Freedom Day in Maryland.
Three years ago, five Capital Gazette employees – Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters – lost their lives in a horrific act of violence. In their memory, I once again proclaim June 28 as Press Freedom Day in Maryland. pic.twitter.com/WPF2BTS4mw
– Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) June 28, 2021
Immediately after Messenger shooting, members of the editorial staff worked to cover the story of the death of their colleagues and publish a newspaper for the next day. They won for their efforts Pulitzer Prize.