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Prosecutors Focus on Competence in Day 2 of Capital Gazette Shooter Trial

The second day of trial for Capital Gazette shooter Jarrod Ramos included interviews from detectives after the shooting, medical professionals and more.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CN) — During the second day of trial to determine the criminal responsibility of Capital Gazette shooter Jarrod Ramos, state prosecutors began to spotlight dissimilarities between the killer’s behavior and a person diagnosed formally with a mental illness.

Testimony paused Tuesday with the review of body camera footage from Wesley Callow, one of the first officers to respond to the scene in 2018, who found Ramos hiding facedown under a desk at the newspaper’s suite. Jurors reviewed a large majority of that evidence Tuesday, which included scenes of Callow finding some of the deceased — John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith.

Wednesday, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Leitess focused on Ramos’ competence and compliance seen on body worn cameras when state and Annapolis police placed him into custody in 2018. Ramos understood commands, puts his hands on his head and behind his back when asked and spreads his legs for officers to search him for weapons, Leitess noted.

Prosecutors continued this theme throughout the day, focusing on contrasting Ramos’ actions from those of the mentally unfit. David Russell, the assistant Anne Arundel County state’s attorney, asked a myriad of questions of a detective who interviewed Ramos about his behavior and ability to make eye contact — the inability to do so being a symptom of autism, which was one of several mental disorders public defender Katy O’Donnell told jurors they would hear more about.

Kelly Harding, one of two law enforcement officials who interviewed Ramos after the shooting, told Russell that Ramos had behaved normally. Jurors reviewed hours of interview videos between Harding, Ramos and an FBI agent which shows Ramos’ refusal to answer questions. Videos show it was hours after the event that law enforcement learned Ramos’ identity.

Harding, who spent about eight hours with Ramos, called his compliance “refreshing,” but did not say his behavior was indicative of anything abnormal. She also described Ramos’ speech as “articulate.”

But she said Ramos had no problem communicating he needed to use the bathroom or wanted a drink of water. He had no issue with standing and communicating he had a leg cramp for example, Harding noted.

Katie Laude, an Anne Arundel County crime scene technician, told jurors about excising search warrants at Ramos’ home, where police found numerous copies of expungement records, veterinarian bills and copies of books that raised suspicions — forensic teams collected copies of “The Last Duel” and “Reputation and Defamation.”

Technicians had photographed numerous parts of the apartment, including Ramos’ bathroom and kitchen trash cans. While a container in his kitchen contained a multitude of items recovered for evidence --- a Mossberg shotgun stock, “dummy” shells and ear protection casing protectors --- one in Ramos’ bathroom contained only hair.

At one instance during Wednesday’s trial, Judge Michael Wachs --- who replaced Judge Laura Ripken when she was appointed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals --- excused the jury to discuss what appeared to be a script being read by a defense witness. Joanne Brandt, a special forensic psychiatrist, appeared to be reading and answering public defender Matt Connell’s questions verbatim from a piece of paper, Wachs noted.

Russell moved to strike Brandt’s testimony from the record, but Connell argued that he and the psychiatrist had been communicating about the examination for years. He denied having ever provided Brandt with any such script or document.

While Wachs allowed Brandt’s testimony, he issued a firm warning to Connell.

“You’re walking a really fine line, Mr. Connell,” Wachs said.

Ramos’ trial will resume on Thursday, where Brandt will continue testifying about diagnosing people with mental illnesses. Brandt, who has been a licensed psychiatrist for several decades, also was the director of pre-trial evaluations of patients at Clifford T. Perkins Hospital in Maryland.

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