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They decided quickly the Capital Gazette gunman was criminally responsible. But the trial itself is taking a toll on some jurors

Alex Mann, Capital Gazette on

Published in News & Features

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — After 12 days of a traumatizing trial to determine whether the Capital Gazette gunman was responsible for killing five people in the Annapolis newsroom, the jurors made their swift decision: yes, his actions and statements made it clear he was sane and should be punished for the murders.

“He knew exactly what he was doing that day,” said juror Tim Smith, 62.

Smith, three other jurors and three alternates discussed the case with a reporter in a two-hour meeting at an Severn church. A volunteer crisis counselor was on hand as they talked about hearing the wrenching testimony of the survivors and remembering the unsettling thoughts of the killer. Some spoke under the condition of anonymity, citing concerns of privacy, safety or the sensitive topic.

Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters were killed June 28, 2018. While Jarrod Ramos pleaded guilty to all the crimes associated with the mass shooting, he maintained he was not criminally responsible, leading to the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court trial to determine his sanity.

It took the panel less than two hours on July 15 to decide Ramos was criminally responsible, and with that, the jurors’ role in the trial was over.

But the jurors and alternates face an enduring emotional toll in the aftermath of a grueling trial. In the group interview Monday, several described not only how they reached their verdict, but that they suffered from a constant awareness of the implications it could have on the victims’ families, as well as the future of the defendant.

 

The jurors said they decided the case based on the facts. While few doubted he was mentally ill, what was impossible for the defense to overcome were the things Ramos did and said.

No matter how compelling his attorneys’ narrative about his mental state was, they never met the burden of proving his conditions prevented him from understanding his actions were criminally wrong or being able to stop himself, according to Smith, the three other jurors at the group interview and another juror interviewed separately.

Ramos mailed letters claiming responsibility the morning of the massacre. He blasted into the newspaper’s office and calmly carried out his years-old plan. He called 911 to surrender. He hid under a desk, disguising himself like a survivor to avoid getting hurt. He complied with officers’ commands during his arrest and eight hours of interrogation.

Juror Jason Copeland, 47, was swayed by that evidence, which was presented early in the trial.

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