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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

“You’ve proved that the leverage of (fear of) dying is so great that you’ve got the mental capacity to fake being a victim, or you really want to see the wrath of your actions and you know both,” Copeland said. “That itself proved to me that I don’t need to see any more evidence, I don’t need to talk about it.”

Jurors began their deliberations in an otherwise empty courtroom, surrounded by hundreds of pieces of evidence, scattered about tables previously occupied by the lawyers in the case. A podium with a computer for the attorneys to display evidence was disconnected from the internet and available for viewing videos and pictures.

Members of the jury pulled chairs into a circle between the jury box, the judge’s bench and the witness stand; because of coronavirus precautions, the trial courtroom became, briefly, their deliberation room.

It was the first opportunity to talk about what went on in the courtroom, what they had wanted to talk about for weeks with the only people who could understand.

“There was so much going on during the trial that, you know, it was agonizing not to be able to sit down with your fellow jurors and discuss it as it was going on,” said juror Kurtis Swope, 49. “So, we all just kind of had to bottle that up inside and wait for that moment.”

As soon as they walked in, Copeland said he suggested taking a poll to gauge each of their positions. While Copeland said he knew which way he would vote, some jurors wanted time to review evidence.

 

A juror who requested anonymity said she took another look at an FBI replica of the newsroom, which survivors of the shooting used during their testimony to show where they hid and where their co-workers were murdered.

“Even though most, if not all, of us went into the room having an idea of how we were going to vote, I think, kind of going through and doing due diligence and making sure that there was nothing to question,” she said, describing her need to review evidence.

She looked at photos and read from the report of Dr. Sameer Patel, a state health department psychiatrist who evaluated Ramos and testified he was criminally responsible.

The juror quickly realized she didn’t want to keep reading. The pages contained chilling details, some of which Patel testified to: How Ramos rejoiced about finding his last victim and made a cruel joke before executing him. How the gunman’s only regret was not having claimed more casualties, naming some of the survivors he was disappointed to have missed.

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