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Jury Rejects Capital Gazette Gunman's Mental Illness Plea


A jury made its decision about the man who killed five people at a newspaper office. He attacked the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., in 2018, and the jury says he is criminally responsible. NPR's Chris Benderev was in the courtroom.

CHRIS BENDEREV, BYLINE: Jarrod Ramos had already pleaded guilty, so the question for the jury was, did mental illness make him unable to, quote, "appreciate the criminality of the killings"? His defense attorneys said yes. They said he had multiple mental disorders and had lost his grip on reality, but the prosecution said it wasn't about mental illness. Ramos had been furious at the Capital Gazette after it published a column about his conviction for harassing a woman. Here's State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.

ANNE COLT LEITESS: And I think the problem is that a lot of people hear this crime and think, you must be crazy to commit this kind of crime. But he wasn't. It was all about revenge.

BENDEREV: Prosecutors also pointed to Ramos's intricate planning as evidence that he knew what he was doing. For example, before the attack, he barricaded the newsroom exit, trapping employees. He shot and killed John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman and Rebecca Smith. This trial has been delayed several times since 2018, but on Thursday, it took the jury less than two hours to reach a verdict. They denied the insanity defense, meaning he'll go to prison instead of a psychiatric facility. After, John San Felice (ph), the father of one of the newsroom survivors, spoke to reporters.


JOHN SAN FELICE: And I want to thank the state's attorneys for what they've done. Three hard years - three hard years we've suffered, and they've put an end to our suffering. Thank you.

BENDEREV: Sentencing will take place later this year. The state's attorney is seeking five life sentences without parole. Chris Benderev, NPR News, Annapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Chris Benderev is a founding producer of and also reports stories for NPR's documentary-style podcast, Embedded. He's driven into coal mines, watched as a town had to shutter its only public school after 100 years in operation, and, recently, he's followed the survivors of a mass shooting for two years to understand what happens after they fade from the news. He's also investigated the pseudoscience behind a national chain of autism treatment facilities. As a producer, he's made stories about ISIS, voting rights and Donald Trump's business history. Earlier in his career, he was a producer at NPR's Weekend Edition, Morning Edition, Hidden Brain and the TED Radio Hour.
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