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Clinical psychologist returns to the stand on day 6 of the Capital Gazette mass shooting trial

Posted at 3:11 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 13:17:59-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — “Very bizarre.” That’s how a clinical psychologist described the gunman’s behavior multiple times during her testimony Wednesday.

Dr. Catherine Yeager was back on the stand for the start of day six of the Capital Gazette mass shooters trial.

She interviewed the gunman, Jarrod Ramos, for a total of 15 hours, diagnosing him with OCD, delusional disorder and autism spectrum disorder.

She described the Capital Gazette article written about Ramos’ harassment guilty plea as the tipping point that enabled a delusion to evolve, saying his OCD “probably played a role because he felt defamed and he felt it was a lie” and he’s obsessed with fairness and the truth.

She said the 50-page complaint the defendant filed in 2012 about his defamation spells out the delusion that he was convinced there was a conspiracy that the victim and reporter were out to ruin his reputation.

“It seems that as the defendant was denied relief and as people disagreed with him and did not buy into his delusion, he got consumed,” said Yeager. “By the time the shooting occurred, he thought everyone was corrupt and the rule of law was broken.”

She also looked over the Twitter account he created while the lawsuits were going on. She said he wanted to look threatening so he created it to scare people. It was part of his “psychological warfare.”

While in jail, Yeager said he rarely talked to people. A nurse documented that he thought he was lied to and he was got so mad he wouldn’t talk to anyone.

It was also documented that he ate off the floor of his cell “because he cleaned the floor” and he also talked about licking his tray because he didn’t want to see any crumbs.

Another behavior she described was that he pulled out his eye brow hairs in the shower for decades.

At the end of the defense’s questioning, public defender Elizabeth Palan asked if it’s unusual for a person with these disorders to be polite or follow the rules. Yeager said no.

It has already been shown that during and after his arrest, Ramos was calm and followed all directions with no protest.

State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess started cross examination with questions about his motivation for filing a not criminally responsible plea.

“I don’t think he cares” whether he wins this case or not, said Yeager.

Leitess referenced the report from a state witness who has not testified yet that Yeager has had a chance to read. In it, the state’s mental health expert reports that Ramos said he would prefer to go to an institution over jail because then he’d have access to the internet.

Although the jury hasn’t directly heard from the state’s mental health expert who found the defendant to be legally sane at the time of the shooting, Leitess continually referenced his report when cross examining the defenses expert, who diagnosed the defendant with three mental health disorders.

She presented a slide show outlining differences in their reports. One discrepancy of note was Ramos’ motivations for filing this plea.

The state’s mental health expert wrote the gunman told him he would prefer to go to an institution over jail so he’d have access to the internet. However, that’s not what he told Yeager. She said she doesn’t think he cares whether he wins this case or not.

Leitess then went on to ask lots of questions regarding his actions and personal life, trying to show the jury he does not have the disorders.

Yeager said part of his OCD, which she called a major mental illness, was a fear of germs and dirt, but Leitess showed a letter to Ramos from his apartment complex in 2012 saying they found his kitchen and bathroom extremely dirty when they came to try and complete maintenance.

Leitess also brought up the fact that the shooter laid face down on the floor of the Capital Gazette after the shooting.

The jury learned on multiple occasions Ramos used poop to get what he wanted while in jail. He made a poop bomb to throw at someone who talked too much; he smeared poop in the vents to get moved to a different jail cell he liked better.

Yeager said Ramos’ delusion had been running since the article in 2011 and part of his psychosis is that law and order applies to others but not himself.

She said he believed his reputation was ruined; he could no longer be a presence in society because everyone would know he was written about as being crazy.

It grew to include the reporter, the victim, their lawyers, the Capital Gazette and ultimately the court system and the judge.

She said it drove him to isolate and the people at the Capital Gazette were ‘high value targets’ because that would be his way to expose the corruption. Once that happened, he could retire from society and go to jail.

Leitess: He knew that killing people at Capital Gazette was a crime didn’t he?

Yeager: He knew that was a crime.

The next phase of the defense’s case would need to connect the dots between the disorders and how they impacted his criminal responsibility.

Next, the defense called Dr. Dorothy Lewis to the stand. She is a psychiatrist who worked alongside Yeager in interviewing Ramos. She was accepted as an expert witness in this case. She has 50 years of background evaluating criminals.

The most famous case she has evaluated was Ted Bundy. ‘Crazy, not insane’ is a documentary based off her life and her work.

She also diagnosed him with OCD, delusional disorder and autism spectrum disorder, calling this combination of disorders dangerous and the cause of the crime.

“He was not able to appreciate the criminality of what he was doing as a result of his delusional disorder,” said Lewis.

Because he cannot recognize his feelings or the feelings of others as part of his autism spectrum disorder, “he can’t appreciate the magnitude of the sadness and the tragedy for these families.”

The next phase of the defense’s case would need to connect the dots between the disorders and how they impacted his criminal responsibility.

The judge estimates we will hear closing arguments in one week.