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Inside his mind: Psychiatrist explains diagnosis of Capital Gazette mass shooter

Posted at 4:40 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 18:00:31-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — As the basis for the documentary ‘Crazy, Not Insane,’ Dr. Dorothy Lewis is known for studying violent people, including Ted Bundy and now Capital Gazette mass shooter Jarrod Ramos.

She testified again Thursday on day seven of his trial where a jury will decide if he, because of mental illness, was not able to appreciate the criminality of his actions and/or conform his conduct to the requirements of the law the time of the murders and thus not criminally responsible.

Lewis shared that after her 15 hours of interviewing the defendant, she drew some conclusions, diagnosing him with OCD, delusional disorder and autism spectrum disorder, though she said he does not think that he has a psychiatric disorder.

She recalled asking the defendant why he decided to kill innocent people not related to his lawsuits during one of their interviews.

“Justification is irrelevant,” Ramos told her. “The rule of law had broken down. I was in an anarchist society.”

She said he felt that because his cause had been rejected by court after court after court, there were no rules anymore.

“He felt everyone was conspiring to ruin him,” said Lewis.

The shooting came seven years after the Capital Gazette published an article about his harassment guilty plea. Lewis said Ramos thought specific words in that article, including ‘rambling,’ implied that he was crazy and it would make him be ridiculed by the world.

“In essence, what he told me he believed was this had damaged his reputation so badly that he could no longer leave his house, that people were whispering behind his back. It was as if the world had become aware of him,” recalled Lewis.

She recalled that he killed the Capital Gazette staffers as a way to right a perceived wrong.

Defense: Is Mr. Ramos remorseful?

Lewis: I don’t think so… He sees them almost as pieces of a puzzle that can be solved if you put things right. He does not conceptualize them as warm, caring individuals with attachments to family and friends.

Defense: Does Mr. Ramos think what he did was criminally wrong?

Lewis: He knows that what he did was against the law.

He had an overwhelming obsession to correct the wrong he believed was done to him.

However, Lewis told the jury she believes he is not criminally responsible because he cannot and does not appreciate the magnitude of what he did and the impact and he lacked substantial capacity to conform his behaviors to the requirements of the law because he was impelled by psychotic thoughts and impulses and because he was paranoid and he was unable to control his behavior.

“He knew he did something that would result in a punishment, but he doesn’t understand what it caused,” said Lewis. “He doesn’t understand the heartbreak and tragedy of what he has does. He cannot appreciate the enormity of the crime he has committed.”

The State’s Attorney rejected her opinion to the judge, saying it’s not in line with the legal standard of criminal responsibility. Anne Colt Leitess said not understanding the tragedy does not mean he doesn’t understand the criminality.

When asked further about her diagnosis of the defendant, Lewis said even from a very young age, Ramos had signs of obsession and autism spectrum disorder. The only really meaningful relationship he had was with his cat Tiger, who he called his fur wife.

She believes he was broken when his cat died and said if he had gotten another cat, maybe the shooting wouldn’t happened.

“The one thing he loved was gone. It’s like the reigns on a horse were broken,” said Lewis.

She also wondered if any human contact could have made a difference and avoided the tragedy.

Leitess questioned Lewis about notes from the court appointed forensic psychiatrist, who wrote in his report that Ramos told him he was not depressed after the cat died.

From 2014, Leitess said he spent $8,000 in medical bills on his cat’s cancer. Over time, running up $90,000 in credit card bills and told the state’s witness he didn’t think he’d ever have to pay those bills.

Lewis testified he was following his credit card bills and was saving $1,500 so that he could buy a lifetime chess membership.

“You can have a very mentally ill person who is also highly intelligent and able to plan and study things,” said Lewis.

Lewis testified that the defendant hacked a woman’s e-mail account and sent her passwords to her husband. She went to the police and they told him to stop and he did.

Leitess pointed that out as his ability to conform his conduct to the law, which is what’s being discussed in this case. She also pointed out that the defendant bought the gun in 2017 and that he had controlled his conduct for two years, up to the point of the shooting.

She also pointed out that prior to committing the murders, the defendant pre-identified a member of the community board’s children as ‘orphan’ and she as a victim.

Ramos knew that Thursday afternoons, the Capital Gazette community board met at the office and that’s why he picked Thursday at 2:30 to commit the crime.

Lewis said these proceedings are important to the defendant because it’s the appropriate formality in the court of law. She said he does not want this trial to ‘set him free’ and he will accept wherever he is placed but the very fact that ‘we are sitting and deliberating makes it all right in the world.’

The trial will continue Friday with the state calling its first witnesses.