ANNAPOLIS, Md (WMAR) — “What drove his behavior? Why did he kill innocent people who never hurt him?” questioned defense attorney Katy O’Donnell.
That’s the crux of the Capital Gazette mass shooter trial, addressed in both the state and defense closing arguments.
The state’s attorney said it’s because he’s narcissistic and wanted revenge for his failed lawsuits, when he felt like his life was over.
O’Donnell said “you can’t make sense of it” because he was delusional and mentally ill.
To find the defendant Jarrod Ramos not criminally responsible, the jury has to find that at the time of the shooting, because of a mental disorder, the defendant lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. The defense has a low burden of proof to meet: proving more likely than not.
DEFENSE CLOSING ARGUMENT:
“Mental illness may be hard to define but you know it when you see it,” said defense attorney Matthew Connell.
And Connell said you can see something is wrong with the gunman. During closing arguments, he described him as psychotic, delusional, paranoid and obsessive. He had no connection with a single human for years before the shooting. No job, no car, no girlfriend and he was peeing in bottles in his apartment.
“His manifesto sounded crazy,” said Connell.
Connell said what he did was horrific and it’s natural for the jury to be sympathetic to the victims but he asked them not to base their opinion on that.
Connell said he believes they have proved the defendant has psychotic, not personality disorders, and it was obvious to people years before the shooting. He cut his father and sister out of his life because they confronted him about his false beliefs. Lawyers and reporters went to the police about his actions. Connell said he should have been institutionalized.
“It’s sad he has fallen through the cracks of our society,” said Connell.
Connell said his mental disorder impaired him significantly enough to make him not criminally responsible, saying just because he knew what he was doing was illegal doesn’t mean he appreciated the criminality. He knew he was going to get arrested but his delusions made it so he couldn’t understand the impact.
Then he said he couldn’t conform his conduct because his will power was impaired. He had a compulsion and lacked the substantial capacity to control himself.
Connell also tried to discredit the state’s expert witnesses.
He asked the jury to disregard Dr. Saathoff completely because he’s never been in the presence of Ramos and was hired to do a job.
“You all have heard more evidence in this case than he has,” said Connell.
Saathoff testified that his research disproved a lot of what the defense experts based their diagnosis on.
Connell also said he believes the state’s key witness, Dr. Patel, was biased, appearing as an advocate.
“He’s the only expert witness who got choked up while testifying,” said Connell.
Connell cited the jury instruction that said just because they’re an expert witness doesn’t mean you have to accept their testimony.
He ultimately asked the jury to send Ramos to the state hospital.
STATE CLOSING ARGUMENT:
State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess started her closing argument saying the gunman loved chess and treated his life like the game, always one step ahead. He knew the Capital Gazette staffers would try the back door so he blocked it. He knew the police would be there in minutes so he brought smoke bombs and placed his backpack in the hallway to make it look like a bomb to slow them down. He picked a Thursday during the community board meeting to kill as many people as possible.
Leitess said merely having a mental disorder, does not you get to not criminally responsible. They could have 100 experts debate what’s wrong with him but it doesn’t matter. The evidence showed he is criminally responsible.
Leitess said it’s not about morally wrong or emotionally wrong, it’s criminally wrong. Even the defense’s expert said he knew what he was doing a illegal. He called 911 immediately after the shooting to alert the police that the shooting was over. She said that alone shows he appreciates the criminality.
She said it’s all about at the time of the offense and asked the jury to look at the shooting and his arrest. She cited body camera and security footage from his police interview that shows he could control himself and was “coherent, calm and compliant.”
Leitess: Is there evidence of delusions, OCD symptoms, or lack of ability to read cues?
Then Leitess started to discredit the defense’s witnesses, including the gunman’s sister who last saw him in 2015 and the vet tech who saw him a few months before the shooting.
Leitess: Where is the evidence at the time of the conduct?
She said the defense has subpoena power and could have called his parents, therapists, neighbors and colleagues to prove his behavior around the time of the shooting.
Leitess then tried to discredit the defense’s experts, saying Dr. Lewis did not address either of the two prongs for the NCR plea.
The defense attorney criticized a state witness for evaluating Ramos without interviewing him, while Leitess said Dr. Lewis, in the past, commented about a person’s sanity to the New York Times before meeting them.
Leitess also pointed out two times Dr. Lewis said something that she didn’t put in her report because she couldn’t verify it. She told the jury the defendant’s dad was brutal to his wife and was an alcoholic and then when questioned, she said she didn’t say that.
“You don’t have to believe one word,” said Leitess.
To sum up her argument, she said out Ramos’ “narcissist’s journey”: he had a grievance, it turned into ideation, he planned, there was a breach and he attacked, leaving behind legacy tokens to tell his story.
The Capital Gazette article was a narcissistic injury. He followed the law until he didn’t agree with it, demanding a retraction, asking for his story to be published, suing and losing.
Leitess said there is a legacy in this case and it’s not his. It’s the legacy of all the brave officers who ran into an active shooter situation. The legacy of victims who fought back.
She suggested Ramos’ legacy- criminally responsible.
The defense then had a chance to rebut. O’Donnell tried to own the evidence, saying the defense first told the jury about how horrific it was and how premeditated and deliberate it was. They told the jury he as guilty. But it’s not about guilt. They believe they have proved he’s more likely not criminality responsible.
The judge excused the alternates and asked them not to talk about the case until it’s over.
Then the jury began deliberations in the courtroom after lunch.
If found criminally responsible, he will go to jail. If found not criminally responsible, he will go to the state’s maximum-security hospital.
This story will continue to be updated.