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Law professor explains insanity defense for Jarrod Ramos' trial

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Posted at 10:04 PM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 09:06:02-04

BALTIMORE — Jury selection for Jarrod Ramos' trial begins Wednesday, even though the actual trial won't start until next week or the week after.

Monday, Ramos admitted to shooting and killing five Capital Gazette employees on June 28, 2018. He originally plead not guilty.

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"The fact the initial plea was not guilty is to be expected. Any reasonable attorney is going to assert their clients right to plead not guilty and then figure out whats going on," said David Jaros, a Professor of Law for the University of Baltimore. He said the second phase of Ramos' trial is all about whether Ramos is sane or not.

"Just because a defendant acts with a great deal of planning and may even be meticulous in their actions doesn't necessarily mean that they're not suffering extreme mental illness and in fact may qualify for the defense," said Ramos.

Jaros said 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.

"What's going to be very difficult about this case is it involves both very complex mental health evidence and then a further hard task for the jury which is to apply a complicated legal rule to that mental health evidence," said Jaros. "So do they understand the defendants mental health condition? And then how does that translate to whether or not he qualifies into the insanity defense?"

A forensic psychiatrist with the State Health Department declared Ramos sane. However, it's up to a jury to make that decision now. If the jury finds Ramos insane, he won't have a criminal conviction.

So instead of jail, he'll go to an institution, which Jaros said has similar conditions to jail.