ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A jury has been selected for the Capital Gazette mass shooting trial.
It’s been almost exactly three years to the day, that five Capital Gazette staffers were murdered at work. Wednesday, jury selection began for the trial of the man who admitted to the crimes, but claimed he was insane at the time.
The court got through the first 82 potential jurors out of 300 that were summoned. Almost half were excused because they believed they could not be impartial in this case, or had already seen or heard too much about the case that they have an opinion about the defendants sanity.
Thursday was another long day of jury selection for the trial of the man who killed 5 Capital Gazette staffers at work three years ago. It’s evident the Anne Arundel County judge will have to seat a jury where at least some of the jurors know something about the case.
The majority of potential jurors said they know something about the murders and many have said to the judge they cannot make an impartial decision.
During questioning, one juror said it would be very hard not to biased since it hit so close to home. Another said they thought the criminal responsibility plea is a cop out.
“I don’t think he’s insane, just to let you know but if you have evidence to prove otherwise, I’ll listen,” one juror said to the judge.
Vacation plans are also becoming an issue because it’s at the beginning of July and the trial is expected to last ten days. Many have proof they are flying out and were then excused.
Judge Michael Wachs stayed later Thursday to reach 80 qualified jurors that is sufficient to seat a jury Friday.
For the second day in a row, the defendant was in the courtroom and wearing a black mask and inmate clothing, even though he’s allowed to wear a clear mask and civilian clothes.
41-year-old Jarrod Ramos admitted to the murders but pleaded that he is not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.
This week, attorneys will select the jurors who will decide if the defendant was sane during the crime, whether he will go to jail or an institution
The judge spent a lot of time explaining what they would have to decide. It’s not a matter of who did it but if he can be held criminally responsible.
A legal expert explained to WMAR-2 News there are two parts to the insanity defense, whether the defendant recognizes the difference between right and wrong and if the defendant can control their actions or if they're coerced by mental illness.
Judge Michael Wachs asked the potential jurors if they or family members knew the victims, any of the witnesses in this case, or if they or family members were in law enforcement, mental health or media fields.
The majority of potential jurors answered they knew something about this case prior to Wednesday.
The judge is also warning all potential jurors that there will be a video shown of the shooting and pictures of the victims. Some said they would not be able to watch it and be fair.
Wachs explained he understands many will have bias, but asked could they set that aside and make a decision solely on the evidence presented in the courtroom.
For various reasons, 34 were struck for cause or excused, meaning they will no longer be eligible to be jurors in this case.
48 were deemed qualified jurors and will be asked to come back for questioning Friday. It’s more than half the amount the judge wants before questioning and the judge plans to seat a jury Friday afternoon.
The murders happened on June 28, 2018. Prosecutors have argued that Ramos planned the attack, and had a past with the newspaper, including old harassment charges.
Ramos, police said, had a long-standing beef with the paper over a column that reported on his 2011 guilty plea for harassing an old high school friend online. He sued for defamation in 2012 and lost. But he continued to hold a grudge against the paper.
A forensic psychiatrist with the state health department declared Ramos sane. However, it's up to a jury to make that decision now.
Because the defendant has not been vaccinated, he has to wear a mask. Defense asked that he be able to wear a clear mask so potential jurors could see his face, but it was fogging up his glasses so he chose to wear a black cloth mask today so much of his face could not be seen.
He is also allowed to wear civilian clothing but chose not to.
The State's Attorney’s Office expects jury selection to run through Friday, and the trial is scheduled to begin next Tuesday - a day after family's will mark three years since losing their loved ones.
The trial is expected to last 10 business days and the judge said the bulk of the trial will be testimony from doctors and mental health professionals.