October 25, 2013

Grand jury had recommended indictment of JonBenet’s parents

But the newly unsealed documents add nothing to the understanding of what happened to the girl in 1996.

By P. Solomon Banda
The Associated Press

DENVER — A grand jury that reviewed evidence in the death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey believed her parents were involved in the crime but didn’t say who killed the beauty queen, according to documents released Friday, 14 years after the grand jury made its recommendation.

click image to enlarge

In this May 24, 2000, photo, Patsy Ramsey and her husband, John, parents of JonBenet Ramsey, appear at a news conference in Atlanta regarding their lie-detector examinations for the murder of their daughter, 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. Patsy Ramsey died in 2006.

The Associated Press

At the time, the panel recommended that both her parents be charged with child abuse resulting in death and being an accessory to a crime, including murder.

However, the documents allege that both parents intended to delay or prevent the arrest of the person who killed their daughter.

The proposed charges were disclosed for the first time in the documents.

Prosecutors at the time declined to actually file charges against John and Patsy Ramsey, who have since been treated as victims in the case.

The district attorney at the time, Alex Hunter, who presented the evidence to the grand jury, said in 1999: “I and my prosecutorial team believe we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time.”

John Ramsey’s attorney, Hal Haddon, issued a letter earlier this week opposing release of the indictments, pointing out that Hunter’s successor, former district attorney Mary Lacy, cleared the Ramseys based on new DNA testing in 2008.

He also cited Lacy’s apology in a letter to John Ramsey at the time, in which she said “no innocent person should have to endure such an extensive trial in the court of public opinion, especially when public officials have not had sufficient evidence to initiate a trial in a court of law.”

Another Ramsey attorney, L. Lin Wood, said the indictments that were released are “nonsensical,” he said.

“They reveal nothing about the evidence reviewed by the grand jury and are clearly the result of a confused and compromised process,” he said.

Patsy Ramsey died in 2006.

Lurid details of the crime and striking videos of the child in adult makeup and costumes performing in pageants propelled the case into one of the highest profile mysteries in the U.S. in the mid-1990s.

The grand jury met three years after JonBenet’s body was found bludgeoned and strangled in the family home in Boulder on Dec. 26, 1996.

The Ramseys maintained their innocence, offering a $100,000 reward for information about the killer and mounting a newspaper campaign seeking evidence.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said the case remains open but is not an active investigation. He predicted the indictment’s release wouldn’t change anything.

“Given the publicity that’s been out there, many people have formed their opinions one way or another,” he said.

Former prosecutor and law professor Karen Steinhauser said grand juries sometimes hear evidence that won’t be admitted during trial that can form the basis of indictments.

But she added that prosecutors must have a good faith belief that they could prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt before pursuing charges.

“I’m not sure that the release of this indictment is going to change the fact that there has not been able to be a prosecution and probably won’t be able to be a prosecution,” she said.

David Lane, a defense attorney who was not involved in the case, said the indictments could have been an attempt to force the parents to turn against each other, which he said was unlikely because both were protected by laws that limit testimony of one spouse against another.

“Somebody killed JonBenet Ramsey,” Lane said. “It sounds like they were accused of aiding and abetting each other, with the hope someone would crack and break. That didn’t happen, and prosecutors may have decided not to go forward.”

(Continued on page 2)

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