The footage includes images of fleeing and wounded victims “suffering” during the attack, material that would unfairly “appeal to the emotions of the jury,” stated Elizabeth Palan, one of Ramos’s public defenders.
After reviewing the video several times, Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Laura S. Ripken on Wednesday sided with prosecutors during a pretrial hearing, saying the value of the footage outweighs concerns of prejudice because it helps prove the elements of the crimes charged.
“The best evidence in this case of what was occurring is the video itself,” Ripken said.
The judge said redacting the video would “cause confusion of the issues” and be “potentially misleading to the jury.”
Ramos, 39, is charged with murder in the shootings that killed five on June 28, 2018. Ramos has pleaded “not criminally responsible,” Maryland’s version of the insanity defense.
Images in the video of the shooter, victims fleeing and the murder weapon speak to the deliberate nature of the attack and the fear of those under fire, the judge said. Those elements are needed to prove murder and assault charges.
Palan had suggested that still images captured from the video could stand in for the footage, but Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess pushed back, saying the video shows “direct evidence of the crime.”
“To suggest that still pictures could convey the methodical hunting … is so inaccurate, it’s astounding to me,” Leitess said.
In arguing to show 36 minutes of video at trial, Leitess said the footage shows Ramos “pacing” and “hunting” during the attack. The video also shows Ramos changed his appearance, taking out his ponytail and removing his shooter’s glasses after the shooting, Leitess said. When paired with footage from body-worn cameras, the video reveals he hid under a desk after the attack for upward of 10 minutes as police swept through the office, she said.
“The hiding shows the consciousness of guilt,” Leitess said.
Police and prosecutors say Ramos opened fire in the newsroom after a long-standing grudge with the publication. Ramos had lost a defamation suit against the paper after it ran a column about Ramos pleading guilty to harassing a former high school classmate, according to court records.
Five people were killed in the shooting: editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, 59; sportswriter, reporter and editor John McNamara, 56; sales assistant Rebecca Smith, 34; and reporter Wendi Winters, 65.
Jury selection in the case is scheduled to start Oct. 30.