ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CN) — A psychologist testifying for state prosecutors about the Capital Gazette shooter’s criminal responsibility told jurors Tuesday that Jarrod Ramos seemed to relish his murder of five journalists and only regretted his inability to claim more lives.
Ramos has already pleaded guilty to killing Gazette journalists Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. His defense team claims he is not criminally responsibility for the June 28, 2018, shooting spree because he could not comprehend what he was doing due to mental illnesses.
Day 10 of the trial to determine whether Ramos will serve life in prison or be committed to a mental health facility continued Tuesday morning with testimony from Dr. Gregory Saathoff, a University of Virginia professor of forensic psychology. On Monday, Saathoff told jurors he and two other psychologists testifying for the state had concerns about the way defense experts used specific tests to diagnose Ramos with a trio of mental disorders.
Another psychologist, Dr. Sameer Patel, the state’s only witness to interview Ramos, began testifying late Tuesday afternoon. Throughout some 20 hours Patel spent interviewing Ramos, the killer mentioned frustration at being unable to murder several of his intended targets and was livid to learn two people he intended to kill had been hiding during his attack.
Patel also described that Ramos had explicitly detailed his killing of Fischman, recalling to the interviewer that his “eyes lit up” when he discovered the hiding journalist.
“He was proud in what he had done,” Patel testified Tuesday.
The psychologist said the gunman had never owned a weapon before the attack, going back and forth for weeks over the specific brand to buy and augmentations to attach to the weapon. Ramos landed on the Mossberg brand because the company made left-handed weapons, Patel testified, and its shotguns were easier to maneuver and aim in tight spaces. Ramos even specifically bought a gun with a pump as they were less prone to jamming or malfunctioning, Patel said.
Patel testified that Ramos tried to demean the heroism of Winters’ attempt to prevent the attack by charging at him with a trashcan. He also told jurors about the gunman's openness in his communication, saying Ramos was able to recognize Patel’s body language and motioning for him to continue long diatribes about his own life story.
Earlier in the day, Saathoff testified that Ramos had been communicating with a young woman on the internet for about nine years beginning in 1998. The killer told court-appointed psychologists in mental status evaluations he had hacked into one of her online accounts in order to learn more about her — an act he acknowledged would have led to his prosecution in the present day.
Saathoff also told jurors that when Ramos was put on probation for harassing another young woman, he restricted himself from contacting her until that punishment period concluded, further illustrating his understanding of criminal conduct.
On direct examination, Saathoff told Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess that another concern he had with defense experts’ diagnoses were that they relied on Ramos’ own statements about his mental behavior. Saathoff testified he’d spent about 100 hours reviewing materials presented to him by prosecutors but hadn’t been able to interview the killer himself.
Saathoff went over a number of behaviors exhibited by Ramos through reports given to him by medical professionals, including some detailing his refusal to communicate with specific staff. Although defense psychologists described Ramos as being unable to communicate clearly or efficiently – evidence of his autistic nature, they said – Saathoff said they often quoted him verbatim and he made perfect sense.
Ramos’ conduct in jail and even on the day of the shooting were indicative of his ability to follow the law, according to the prosecution's witnesses. There were no indications Ramos broke any traffic laws on his way to the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis, Saathoff said, adding the shooter had even done meticulous recognizance on the layout of the suite more than a year prior.
Ramos’ sister, Michelle Jeans, had also told psychologists her brother was interested in his own legacy, speaking often of how people would remember him in the future. A number of communications Ramos sent on the day of his attack were, in Saathoff’s opinion, “legacy tokens,” which he described as “a prepared communication that is designed to claim credit” for an attack or event, “but also to articulate the motive.”
In addition, the fact Ramos had sent a letter to Maryland appeals court judge's wife on the day of the shooting, and with the knowledge it would not arrive until after he was placed in custody, “demonstrated an appreciation of the criminality of the conduct,” Saathoff said.
Ramos’ other two letters – one sent to Eric Hartley, who penned a Gazette story on Ramos’ harassment of a young woman in 2011, and another to the Maryland Special Appeals Court itself – were indicators of his understanding of the criminality of his acts for the same reason, according to the psychologist.
“My opinion is that Mr. Ramos is criminally responsible for the events that took place on June 28th, 2018,” Saathoff said.
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