Judge grants time to weigh insanity plea in newspaper attack

The man charged with killing five people at a Maryland newspaper office will get more time for his lawyer to consider filing a plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity, a judge ruled Monday.

Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Laura Kiessling said she found good cause to give Jarrod Ramos' lawyer until Oct. 24 to consider entering a plea of not criminally responsible. William Davis, a public defender, requested more time last week to consider hundreds of pages of documents, review other material in the case and have discussions with his client. Ramos pleaded not guilty July 30.

After meeting with attorneys, Kiessling scheduled a jury trial for Jan. 15. During a court hearing afterward, Kiessling estimated the trial could last 10 days. She also scheduled hearings for Dec. 18 and 19 to discuss admissible evidence.

Ramos sat quietly in the courtroom. He had long hair and a beard, and he wore glasses during the proceeding. Authorities led him away in leg irons after the brief hearing.

Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Wes Adams noted some uncertainty that remains due to a potential plea change.

"Obviously we have to see everything that's filed. We will respond accordingly, based on what evaluations are provided to us and our own evaluations as the evidence dictates," Adams told reporters, when asked how he would respond to a plea of not criminally responsible.

The judge granted a defense request for prosecutors to turn over more information in the case, including witness phone numbers and addresses.

"We agreed to give over the information so that the defense attorney — and the defense attorneys only — can prepare for this particular case," Adams said.

Prosecutors, who are seeking life in prison without possibility of parole, also turned over officers' body-worn camera footage, 911 calls, EMT reports and grand jury testimony, Adams said.

Ramos faces 23 charges. The 38-year-old has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Ann Smith and Wendi Winters in the June 28 attack at the newsroom, where police say he used a shotgun to blast his way inside. He also has been charged with attempted murder, assault and gun crimes.

Prosecutors say Ramos carefully planned the attack and barricaded the rear exit of the office to prevent people from escaping.

Ramos, of Laurel, Maryland, had a longtime grudge against the newspaper. The Capital had written about Ramos pleading guilty to harassing a former high school classmate in 2011, and Ramos unsuccessfully sued the writer and the newspaper's publisher for defamation.