In choosing a jury for the Jarrod Ramos newspaper shooting trial, prosecutors will have to battle the notion that only a crazy person would do what he did. Magna’s Mark Calzaretta points out in Baltimore Sun that there’s a difference between crazy and criminally insane.

Capital Gazette case jury selection to be defined by biases on mental health, media and insanity defense, experts say

When jury selection in the Capital Gazette shooting case begins, attorneys and the judge will try to tease out biases about mental health, the insanity defense and even the media, experts say.

In this case more than any other, half a dozen legal experts said, prosecutors and defense attorneys will seek to find open-minded jurors to ensure a fair trial for the shooter.

Ramos’ defense attorneys likely will look for people who know “mental illness is a reality” and that it could potentially explain “horrific behavior,” said attorney Andrew Jezic. Perhaps that person had a family member or friend who’s afflicted by a condition.

“You just need people that are sympathetic to the inherent failings of human nature,” Jezic said.

Lawyers for both sides will try to eliminate anyone who works in the mental health field, experts said, so that jurors can concentrate on the evidence presented. There are already three sets of psychiatrists and psychologists set to testify in the case.

On the other side, experts said, prosecutors will hope for someone who’s rigid in their thinking, skeptical of the insanity defense. They’ll want to exclude anyone who they perceive as overly sympathetic to mental health issues or who believes the criminal justice system is biased.

Prosecutors also will have to battle the reflex that someone who commits mass murder has to be crazy. It’s not uncommon for that word to be used colloquially following yet another shooting in America.

“There’s some level of crazy with all of this — it has to be; it’s just nuts to do it,” said Mark Calzaretta of Magna Legal Services, “But that doesn’t mean that they’re criminally insane.”

In this already unique case, another unusual element could factor into jury selection: A person’s perception of the press.

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