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Mental health experts hired to help prepare an insanity defense have examined the man charged with killing five Capital Gazette employees.

At least one of those experts believes the man has autism, defense attorneys said. But an Anne Arundel County judge on Thursday denied prosecutors’ request to review the experts’ notes from their interviews with the man accused of fatally shooting Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.

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With less than three weeks remaining before Jarrod Ramos is slated to stand trial, it’s unclear how attorneys for the 39-year-old plan to use the doctors’ findings. A diagnosis alone does not meet Maryland’s legal standard for insanity — which says the defendant must prove that at the time they committed the crime they could not understand their actions were wrong or stop themselves because of a mental disease or defect.

If Ramos is found guilty of the deadly attack and moves on to the phase of trial where a judge or jury will determine whether he’s criminally responsible, prosecutors will have the opportunity to challenge those experts’ findings during cross examination.

Ramos faces five counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and six counts of first-degree assault, among a host of other charges. He pleaded not guilty and not criminally responsible on all 23 charges. Circuit Court Judge Laura Ripken split the trial into two phases at Ramos’ request: first a proceeding to determine whether he is guilty of the offenses, second whether he was insane at the time.

The public defenders representing Ramos gave prosecutors reports and summaries prepared by their experts. State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess described the reports as scant and demanded to see notes, which she described as the “foundation” of each expert’s report.

Leitess compared the 11-page report of the defense psychiatrist to the 124-page report prepared by a forensic psychiatrist with the Maryland Department of Health, who Ripken ordered to evaluate Ramos after he pleaded insanity. Ripken did rule Thursday, at prosecutors’ request, that the defense turn over their experts’ notes and information to health department doctors, whom prosecutors could call as witnesses.

Leitess said the defense was “hiding the ball,” describing the psychiatrist’s report as being full of “broad, sweeping statements” and based almost exclusively on in-person interviews with Ramos and his sister, yet absent appropriate attribution. “We’re trying to get the actual observable characteristics, facts, quotes."

Public Defender William Davis argued that the defense attorneys are obligated to turn over only the reports. Anything further is covered by attorney-client privilege and attorney work product because the public defenders hired the experts to aid in Ramos’ defense, he said.

“Mr. Ramos is not a patient of these individuals,” he said.

Experts have said the second part of the trial — contingent on a guilty verdict in the first — often becomes a battle of mental health experts, with each side calling into question the findings of their counterparts. In Ramos’ case, there exists the possibility that three sets of mental professionals testify in the second phase.

The public defenders employed a neurologist, a psychologist and a psychiatrist to evaluate Ramos. Each conducted tests on Ramos and met with him in person. While one expert said he has autism, another was less conclusive, saying it was possible Ramos has autism spectrum disorder — a developmental disability marked by impairments in social and communication skills, with varying degrees of severity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The psychiatrist wrote whether she thought he was insane, though the attorneys did not disclose what she concluded.

The neurologist provided only a two-page summary, Leitess said. And considering the brevity of the defense psychiatrist’s report, “her notes would be even more critical.”

As far as the neurologist is concerned, Davis said there was no additional data to provide because the doctor performed physical exams akin to sobriety tests.

He said prosecutors already had access to all the information relied upon by the psychiatrist, including interviews with Ramos, his sister and information from “collateral sources.” Besides, he said, where each piece of information comes from is clearly discernible in the psychiatrist’s report.

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“All you have to do is read it,” Davis said. “It’s all in there, if you just simply read it.”

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