By Michelle Richardson, Special to the AFRO

The man accused of killing five staffers at the Capital Gazette Newspaper in Annapolis has pleaded guilty for the June 2018 mass shooting.

Jarrod Ramos, 39, is asking for a jury trial on the question of his mental competence. 

This week, Jarrod Ramos pleaded guilty to the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette Newspaper, which left five staff members dead in June 2018. (Courtesy Photo)

Ramos initially pleaded not guilty and not criminally responsible, which is Maryland’s version of the insanity defense. 

The trial had been scheduled to start Oct. 28. 

Rebecca Smith, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen and John McNamara all died in the Gazette’s newsroom when Ramos burst in and opened fire with a shotgun.

Ramos had lost a defamation lawsuit against the paper after it published a column about his guilty plea to harassing a former high school classmate.

Judge Laura S. Ripken accepted Ramos’ admission that he was the shooter and scheduled the start of jury selection for Oct. 30, in the next phase of the case That’s when it is expected Ramos’ attorneys will argue that he is not criminally responsible for the shooting and should be committed to a mental hospital instead of prison.

In Maryland, a defendant is entitled to an insanity acquittal if he proves that at the time of the offense, as a result of a mental disorder, he lacked “substantial capacity to appreciate,” the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.

If Ramos’ defense is successful, he would be confined to a psychiatric institution for treatment and eventually would be eligible for release if it were determined that he was not likely to pose a danger to the public in the future.

As prosecutors described the rampage, survivors and relatives of the slain sat silently in the courtroom, wiping away tears and consoling each other.

“It’s hard to know how I feel at a time like this,” said Andrea Chamblee, McNamara’s wife of 33 years, said to DC television station ABC7-WJLA after the hearing. 

“It’s a whipsaw of emotions, but there’s no name for it. I can’t really compare it to any other feelings I’ve ever experienced.”