Home » Entries posted by BRIAN WITTE Associated Press
Maryland’s governor has honored deaf and blind swimmer Becca Meyers with a citation after the three-time gold medalist withdrew from the Paralympics in Tokyo upon being told she couldn’t bring her mother as her personal care assistantBy BRIAN WITTE Associated PressJuly 26, 2021, 6:24 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland’s governor honored deaf and blind swimmer Becca Meyers on Monday for courage in championing the disabled, after the three-time gold medalist withdrew from the Paralympics in Tokyo when told her mother couldn’t travel to the games as her personal care assistant.Gov. Larry Hogan presented a citation to Meyers during a news conference commemorating the 31st anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act. The certificate honored her “bravery for highlighting the issue of inequality and access for people with disabilities.”Hogan also signed an executive order declaring that Maryland will annually celebrate July as Disability Culture and Achievements Month.“Becca deserved to be able to compete, and while we’re all so disappointed for her, I got the chance to tell her just a moment before this started that I’m unbelievably proud of her for having the courage to speak up and to speak out about this injustice,” Hogan said.Meyers, 26, said the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee had approved her mother to act as her assistant at all international meets since 2017 but the committee said her request to bring her mother this time was denied due to restrictions put in place by the Japanese government due to COVID-19. Meyers said she made the decision to withdraw to stand up for future Paralympic athletes, saying she didn’t want them to have to experience what she’s been through.“I hope to work with others to effect change so that no one ever feels afraid to travel with Team USA,” Meyers said.Hogan said he told Meyers before Monday’s news conference that while he was proud of her for being a gold-medal winner, he was even more proud of her speaking up to set an example for younger athletes. The governor criticized the decision not to allow her mother to travel to the games.“There’s a whole lot of problems with this Olympics, but that was probably the one that stood out the most with me,” Hogan said.The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, or USOPC, said that because of the pandemic, there are increased restrictions on delegation size at the Tokyo Games, which left the federation only one slot for a personal care assistant who will have to assist 34 Paralympic swimmers. The PCA has more than 27 years of coaching experience and 11 years with para swimmers, the USOPC said.“The decisions we’ve made on behalf of the team have not been easy, and we are heartbroken for athletes who are unable to have their previous support resources available,” the USOPC said. “We are confident in the level of support we will offer Team USA and look forward to providing them a positive athlete experience even in the most unprecedented times.”At the 2016 Rio Paralympic games, Meyers said she experienced emotional and physical trauma from not being able to navigate on her own throughout the Olympic village.“I need that reasonable and essential accommodation to then be able to perform to the best of my ability on the world stage,” Meyers told reporters after Hogan presented her with a certificate.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A jury on Thursday found the gunman who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper criminally responsible for his actions, rejecting defense attorneys’ mental illness arguments.The verdict means Jarrod Ramos will be sentenced to prison, not a maximum-security mental health facility, for one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in the U.S. Prosecutors are seeking five life sentences without the possibility of parole.The jury needed less than two hours to find that Ramos, 41, could understand the criminality of his actions and conform his conduct to the requirements of the law when he attacked the Capital Gazette newsroom in 2018.Survivors and family members of victims, some with tears in their eyes, embraced outside the courtroom and applauded prosecutors and jurors as they walked by after the verdict.“It’s been a never-ending nightmare,” said Cindi Rittenour, the sister of Rebecca Smith, who died in the attack. “And then hearing that today — just all my anxiety over it, all the wonderings, the unknowns, it’s all gone away now, and all I feel is just relief and happiness. I feel like my sister can finally start to rest in peace.”Danielle Ohl was a reporter at the Capital Gazette when Ramos attacked and came to Annapolis to be with her former colleagues for the verdict.“It’s the culmination of three excruciating years, waiting for a result in the trial and waiting to find out if the man who kind of ruined our families and newsroom would go somewhere with the potential to be released,” Ohl said.Paul Gillespie, a photojournalist at the newspaper, said he suffers from PTSD, anxiety and depression since the attack. In court, he described feeling the breeze of shotgun pellets whiz by him as he ran out of the newsroom to safety.“With this being over now, I’m hoping things get a little better, but I don’t know what the future holds,” Gillespie said.“He’s evil; he’s not crazy. He deserves to be in prison, and I hope he gets all five life terms,” he said of Ramos.Ramos already had pleaded guilty to all 23 counts against him in 2019 but pleaded not criminally responsible — Maryland’s version of an insanity plea. The second phase of his trial, which lasted 12 days, was largely a battle between mental health experts called by defense attorneys and prosecutors.Ramos developed a long-running grudge against the newspaper after an article it published about his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of harassing a former high school classmate in 2011. He filed a lawsuit against the paper in 2012, alleging he was defamed, but it was dismissed as groundless. His appeals failed.Defense attorneys argued that Ramos suffered from a delusional disorder as well as autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They contended Ramos became consumed with the idea that the article had ruined his life. As his defamation appeals failed, his lawyers said he came to believe there was a vast conspiracy against him involving the courts and the newspaper.Prosecutors, however, repeatedly pointed to shortcomings in the mental health evaluations done by the defense, which relied mostly on interviews with Ramos and his sister.Prosecutors said Ramos acted out of revenge for the article. They said his long, meticulous planning for the attack and the manner in which he carried it out — including plans for arrest and long incarceration — proved he understood the criminality of his actions.They emphasized how Ramos called 911 from the newsroom after the shooting, identified himself as the gunman and told him he surrendered — evidence he clearly understood the criminality of his actions. He was arrested while facedown under a desk.Anne Colt Leitess, the Anne Arundel County state’s attorney, said that although Ramos has personality disorders like narcissism, he does not have serious mental illness that would have qualified him to be found not criminally responsible for five murders.Leitess told the jury that Ramos thought he was smarter than everyone else, and his repeated losses in court were “too much for him to bear, and so he started plotting his revenge.” Leitess also said Ramos was concerned the article about him harassing his former classmate would hinder his ability to get dates.After the verdict, Leitess expressed satisfaction with the outcome.“This means everything to the community. I’m just so happy that I was able to bring justice for the family members and the survivors, and that Mr. Ramos will be held criminally responsible for his crimes,” she said.The trial began last month, three years and a day after the attack that killed Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen and Smith at the newspaper’s office in a building complex in Maryland’s capital city on June 28, 2018.Under Maryland’s insanity defense law, a defendant has the burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that he is not criminally responsible for his actions. That means defense attorneys had to show that it’s more likely than not that Ramos isn’t criminally responsible.———Associated Press writer David McFadden contributed to this report.
Maryland prosecutors have rested their case in a trial to determine whether the man who killed five people at a newspaper is not criminally responsible due to mental illnessBy BRIAN WITTE Associated PressJuly 14, 2021, 9:10 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland prosecutors rested their case Wednesday in a trial to determine whether a man who killed five people at a newspaper is not criminally responsible due to mental illness.They rested after a state psychiatrist who found Jarrod Ramos to be legally sane at the time of the mass shooting testified about why he believes the gunman is criminally responsible. The psychiatrist pointed to Ramos’ methodical planning prior to the 2018 attack at the Capital Gazette, as well as the discipline he maintained when he had been on probation years earlier for harassment.A defense attorney for Ramos, however, questioned the findings of Dr. Sameer Patel during a cross-examination in the second phase of a trial to determine whether Ramos goes to prison or a maximum-security psychiatric hospital.Patel, a forensic psychiatrist, outlined multiple findings to show how Ramos doesn’t meet either of the two parts of state law to be found not criminally responsible.Under Maryland law, a defendant can be found not criminally responsible if, due to a mental disorder, the person lacks substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of the conduct or cannot conform conduct to the requirements of the law.Patel spoke with Ramos for about 20 hours over six different interviews to compile his 120-page report in 2019. He made nine different findings that mostly relate to the gunman’s meticulous planning that he believes illustrate Ramos was able to appreciate the criminality of his conduct.For example, Ramos told him about how he studied police reaction times to other mass shootings and started a stopwatch just before the attack so he could keep time. Ramos also told the doctor of his careful plans to be taken alive by police.Ramos also called the police on himself from inside the newsroom after the attack and announced his surrender. He then got down on the floor and crawled under a desk with his legs sticking out.“He told me he wanted to look like a victim initially so that they wouldn’t shoot him when they arrived,” Patel testified.Katy O’Donnell, one of Ramos’ lawyer, questioned Patel about whether he specifically asked Ramos if he thought he was criminally responsible. Patel answered that he did not specifically ask him that, but that when someone plans to be arrested to the degree Ramos did while also planning to spend his remaining life in prison, that indicates an appreciation for the criminality of conduct.“I don’t know what else to say,” Patel said, adding, “It’s simple.”Ramos pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible to all 23 counts against him in 2019.John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith died in the attack.Defense attorneys argue that Ramos suffered from a paranoid delusion in which the Capital Gazette and the courts conspired against his efforts to sue the newspaper after the publication of a 2011 article about him pleading guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge. His 2012 lawsuit, which alleged that the paper defamed him, was dismissed as groundless. His appeals failed.Patel noted Ramos’ behavior during probation after his court case as evidence that he could conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. In the years before the attack, Patel said Ramos was disciplined and careful not to contact people he wasn’t supposed to as part of his probation, until it ended.The doctor also testified that Ramos had made up his mind to attack the newspaper in 2016, but he waited until 2018 to carry out the shooting, and “that shows an ability to control his behavior.”Closing arguments are set for Thursday.The defense has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. That means defense attorneys are trying to show that it’s more likely than not that Ramos isn’t criminally responsible.
Survivors of a mass shooting at a Maryland newspaper have described the terror of hiding for their lives under desks during testimony at the gunman’s trial to determine whether he is criminally responsible due to insanityBy BRIAN WITTE Associated PressJuly 9, 2021, 9:50 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleANNAPOLIS, Md. — Survivors of a mass shooting at a Maryland newspaper described the terror of hiding for their lives under desks in their newsroom during testimony Friday at the gunman’s trial to determine whether he is criminally responsible due to insanity.The sight of a shot colleague, the near miss of a shotgun blast, the passing flashlight at the end of the gunman’s weapon and the sounds of shells reloading were part of their accounts of an attack that lasted only minutes but left five dead.Six people who were inside the Capital Gazette newsroom during the 2018 shooting were among the first called by prosecutors, who are trying to prove to a jury that Jarrod Ramos understood the criminality of his actions and was not insane at the time of the long-planned attack.“I was waiting to die, and so I was praying,” said Selene San Felice, who was a reporter at the paper.She recalled watching her colleague John McNamara get hit by a shotgun blast while she was hiding under a desk with intern Anthony Messenger.“Once John got shot, I thought we were going to die,” Messenger testified.Paul Gillespie, a photographer, said he heard shotgun pellets breeze by after Ramos fired at him, just before he ran out of the newsroom to safety.Janel Cooley, an advertising sales representative, testified to hearing a loud explosion as Ramos blasted through the entrance, shaking the whole office.Cooley testified to seeing Wendi Winters charge Ramos with a trash can in one hand and a recycling bin in the other before he shot her and kept moving through the newsroom.“He was walking very purposefully, very methodically,” Cooley said.Rachael Pacella, a reporter at the newspaper, described hiding under her desk at first, but as the gunshots moved closer she decided to run out a back door — which Ramos had blocked earlier with a device to trap employees inside. She tripped, banged her head on a door and hid between file cabinets, where she could see the flashlight from Ramos’ shotgun just feet away as he passed.Phil Davis, who was a reporter at the paper, described hearing Ramos reload near where he hid under a desk.McNamara, Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman and Rob Hiaasen died in the June 28, 2018 shooting.Ramos already pleaded guilty to all 23 counts against him in 2019, but he has pleaded not criminally responsible due to his mental health. The defense, which went first in presenting its case, has the burden of proof by a “preponderance of the evidence.” That means defense attorneys are trying to show that it’s more likely than not that Ramos isn’t criminally responsible.Defense attorneys argue Ramos suffered from a paranoid delusion in which the newspaper and the courts conspired to block his efforts to restore his reputation after the publication of a 2011 article about him pleading guilty to a harassment charge against a former high school classmate. His 2012 lawsuit, which alleged that the paper defamed him, was dismissed as groundless. His appeals failed.Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said in her opening statement on Thursday that while Ramos has personality disorders like narcissism, he does not have serious mental illness that qualifies him to be found not criminally responsible for five murders. She contends Ramos attacked the paper out of revenge for the article.If Ramos were found not criminally responsible, he would be committed to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital instead of prison.
A psychiatrist says the man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper in 2018 could not appreciate the criminality of his conduct because he has a delusional disorderBy BRIAN WITTE Associated PressJuly 7, 2021, 10:18 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleANNAPOLIS, Md. — The man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper could not appreciate the criminality of his conduct because he has a delusional disorder and other mental illnesses, a psychiatrist testified Wednesday during the shooter’s trial to determine whether he is criminally responsible for the murders.Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a psychiatrist retained by defense attorneys, said delusional beliefs have “a great deal” to do with Jarrod Ramos’ criminal behavior. She said her conclusions were reached after about 17 hours of interviews with him about the 2018 attack.“My opinion is that he was not able to appreciate the criminality of what he was doing as a result of his delusional disorder,” Lewis testified.Like two other defense witnesses, Lewis testified that Ramos has Autistic Spectrum Disorder, making him unable to appreciate the magnitude of his actions, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.“He has a combination of mental problems that, together, seem to cause this kind of violence,” Lewis said.Prosecutors argue Ramos knows right from wrong, noting that he called the police from inside the Capital Gazette newsroom after the attack three years ago, admitted he was the shooter and said he surrendered. He was arrested under a desk in the newsroom.Defense attorneys contend Ramos had a consuming obsession that he was defamed by the newspaper in a 2011 article about his guilty plea to harassing a former high school classmate online — an article Ramos thought wrongly made him appear to be insane and ruined his life.After the article was published, he had a well-documented history of harassing the newspaper’s journalists. He filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper in 2012. The lawsuit was dismissed as groundless.Ramos pleaded guilty in 2019 to 23 counts in the killings of Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith at the newspaper on June 28, 2018. He has pleaded not criminally responsible, and the jury trial to determine whether he is entered its sixth day on Wednesday.Under Maryland’s insanity defense law, a defendant has the burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that he is not criminally responsible for his actions. State law says a defendant is not criminally responsible for criminal conduct if, because of a mental disorder or developmental disabilities, he lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct.Defense attorneys are presenting their case first. Lewis is scheduled to continue her testimony on Thursday, as the defense nears the end of its case.Prosecutors, who will be calling expert witnesses of their own, have highlighted during cross-examinations of witnesses that Ramos’ doctors have relied largely on testimony from Ramos and his sister in making mental evaluations of him, when he doesn’t have a lot of incentive to be honest with them.Anne Colt Leitess, the Anne Arundel County state’s attorney has made repeated references to a state psychiatrist’s report that found Ramos to be legally sane. On Wednesday, she said Ramos told Dr. Sameer Patel that Ramos intended to make “a farce” out of the second phase of his trial.Leitess also noted that Patel’s report said Ramos came around to deciding to pursue a plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity when he learned his inevitable confinement would be better in a mental health facility than prison, partly because he would have access to a computer and the internet.Prosecutors have a key expert witness of their own expected to testify later: Dr. Gregory Saathoff, a forensic psychiatrist and a chief consultant for the FBI. He has concluded Ramos is criminally responsible, as evident from his methodical planning both for the attack and for after it.
A mental health expert retained by attorneys of the man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper says he suffers from autism, obsessive compulsive disorder and delusional disorderBy BRIAN WITTE Associated PressJuly 7, 2021, 3:18 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleANNAPOLIS, Md. — The man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper suffers from autism, obsessive compulsive disorder and delusional disorder, a mental health expert retained by his attorneys testified Tuesday during a trial to determine whether he is criminally responsible due to insanity.Dr. Catherine Yeager was the second mental health expert to testify about disorders that attorneys say afflict Jarrod Ramos in a case that will largely be a battle between mental health experts.She testified that she supported a previous doctor’s diagnosis revealed in court last week that Ramos suffers from “autism spectrum disorder.” Dr. Thomas Hyde, a neurologist and neuroscientist also retained by defense attorneys, said Ramos “falls in the milder to moderate spectrum of these problems.” Prosecutors questioned his report’s validity last week, noting an error and alleging the findings relied too much on Ramos’ account.Defense attorneys, who have the burden of proof and are presenting their case first, have another mental health expert set to testify as soon as Wednesday who contends Ramos is not criminally responsible due to mental illness.Ramos already has pleaded guilty to 23 counts in the killings of Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith at the Capital Gazette newspaper on June 28, 2018. If he were found not criminally responsible, he would be committed to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital instead of prison.Prosecutors, who are seeking life without possibility of parole, also have experts they plan to call who believe Ramos is criminally responsible.Yeager, a clinical psychologist, gave examples in court of how the disorders have shown themselves in Ramos over the years, based on screenings and evaluations during 15 hours of interviews over three days with him, a phone conversation with a former friend and Ramos’ sister.Some of the examples Yeager cited came from the 41-year-old’s years in elementary school, when a friend described him as a “rigid thinker” who tended to dress the same way every day and lined up action figures meticulously.The friend also knew Ramos when he returned for high school after a period of living in England with his family, Yeager said. The friend described Ramos as a changed person who would go on “ranting about different things.”She also testified of about 20 rituals or obsessive thoughts that Ramos described to her. Yeager said Ramos told her that in high school he felt painfully aware of his presence around other people — and felt he was somehow infringing on other people in face-to-face encounters. As a result, he avoided being around people.“What he said to me was, in high school when he was out of a person’s presence, he felt relief,” Yeager said.In what she described as one of the more bizarre examples, Yeager said he told her during an interview with her and colleague, Dr. Dorothy Lewis, that he has an automatic thought process of symmetry, so when he speaks to people their noses have to line up as an equilateral triangle.“So that gives you an example of a very irrational obsession,” Yeager said.Ramos also told Yeager he has a fear of filth and germs that he believes started when he was a young adult, and he spoke of a ritual he goes through when he showers.“He has a procedure for every part of his body,” Yeager, whose testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday, said.Ramos had a well-documented history of harassing the Capital Gazette’s journalists. He filed a lawsuit against the paper in 2012, alleging he was defamed in an article about his guilty plea in a criminal harassment case in 2011. The defamation suit was dismissed as groundless.
A doctor says the man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper is autistic and has “persecutory delusional beliefs.”By BRIAN WITTE Associated PressJuly 2, 2021, 10:42 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleANNAPOLIS, Md. — The man who killed five people at a Maryland newspaper is autistic and has “persecutory, delusional beliefs,” a trial defense expert testified Friday — but a prosecutor criticized the doctor’s findings, saying a report featured an error, omitted details and was overly dependent on what the gunman told him.Dr. Thomas Hyde, a neurologist and neuroscientist retained by defense attorneys, testified on the fourth day of the trial of Jarrod Ramos. Ramos has pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible to killing Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters three years ago at the Capital Gazette newspaper.The case will largely be a battle of mental health experts called by defense attorneys and prosecutors. Hyde was the first doctor who examined Ramos to testify in the case.A jury is hearing evidence to decide whether Ramos is criminally responsible for the mass shooting and whether he should go to prison or a maximum-security mental health facility.Hyde testified that Ramos suffers from “autism spectrum disorder without intellectual impairment.”“He falls in the milder to moderate spectrum of these problems,” Hyde said, when asked by defense attorney Katy O’Donnell about the severity of Ramos’ disorder regarding social communication and repetitive behaviors.Hyde wrote two reports on Ramos, one in September 2019 and another on May 1.Hyde also testified that Ramos suffers from depression and anxiety, as well as “persecutory delusional beliefs.” Those beliefs relate to an article the newspaper wrote about him regarding a harassment case he pleaded guilty to in 2011 involving a former high school classmate.“He has a fixed belief that there is a formed conspiracy between the prosecutor and the staff at the Capital Gazette to exert judicial punishment on him,” Hyde said, because he didn’t receive jail time over the harassment case.In his May report, Hyde said Ramos told him he “was a victim of ‘vigilante justice.'”“When alternative perspectives and explanations for the reporting by the Capital Gazette were offered to him by this examiner, he firmly rejected them,” Hyde wrote.The report also notes that “other than paranoid delusions related to the Capital Gazette, Mr. Ramos denied other psychotic symptoms.”Under cross-examination, prosecutors said Hyde’s first report on Ramos was only three pages long. Prosecutor David Russell also noted that the report said Ramos spent 18 months hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he only hiked it for nine months.“What else is wrong with this report?” Russell asked.The prosecutor also noted omissions. While Hyde wrote that Ramos was withdrawn and avoided social interaction, Russell said Ramos was in a chess club, as well as a running club in high school. Prosecutors have also noted that Ramos had social interactions when he hiked the Appalachian Trial, staying at peoples’ houses along the way and dining with them.Russell asked whether a test Hyde administered to Ramos included a feature to check if he was malingering, or not being honest with him, as other psychiatric tests do.“No, there’s no built in check,” Hyde said.The prosecutor asked Hyde if he agreed that being on trial for a mass shooting could affect Ramos’ honesty.“It’s always something that you have to consider, yes,” Hyde said.Ramos, 41, had a well-documented history of harassing the newspaper’s journalists. He filed a lawsuit against the paper in 2012, alleging he was defamed in the article about his guilty plea in a criminal harassment case in 2011. The defamation suit was dismissed as groundless.