ORDER - I. The Timeline of the Crime and the Crime Scene

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ORDER - I. The Timeline of the Crime and the Crime Scene

Post by Mama2JML on Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:45 am

WOLF v. RAMSEY

253 F.Supp.2d 1323 (2003)

Robert Christian WOLF, Plaintiff,
v.
John Bennet RAMSEY and Patricia Paugh Ramsey, Defendants.
No. CIV.A.1:00-CV-1187-J.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division.


March 31, 2003.

Sean R. Smith, Thomas Maclver Clyde, Dow Lohnes & Albertson, Atlanta, Daniel M. Petrocelli, phv, Charles P. Diamond, phv, O'Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles, CA, Richard Neal Sheinis, Hall Booth Smith & Slover, Atlanta, Andrew R. Macdonald, phv, Boulder County Attorney Office, Boulder, CO, David Lewis Balser, McKenna Long & Aldridge, Joe Dally Whitley, Alston & Bird, Atlanta, GA, for Steve Thomas, Alexander Hunter, Fleet White, Jr., City and County of Boulder, a subdivision of the State of Colorado, Robert E. Cook, movants.
Darnay Hoffman, phv, Law Offices of Darnay Hoffman, New York City, Evan M. Altaian, Office of Evan M. Altaian, Atlanta, GA, for Robert Christian Wolf, plaintiff.
James Clifton Rawls, Eric Schroeder, S. Derek Bauer, Powell Goldstein Frazer & Murphy, L. Lin Wood, Jr., Office of L. Lin Wood, Atlanta, GA, for John Bennett Ramsey, Patricia Paugh Ramsey, defendants.


ORDER
CARNES, District Judge.
This case is presently before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment [67]; defendants' motion in limine to exclude the testimony of Cina Wong and Gideon Epstein [68]; and defendants' motion for oral argument [79].1 The Court has reviewed the record and the arguments of the parties and, for the reasons set out below, concludes that defendants' motion for summary judgment [67] should be GRANTED; defendants' motion to exclude the testimony of Cina Wong and Gideon Epstein [68] should be GRANTED as to Ms. Wong and GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as to Mr. Epstein; and defendants' motion for oral argument [79] should be DENIED.
BACKGROUND
This diversity case is one of the many civil suits that arose in the wake of the widely-publicized and unsolved murder of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado, on December 26, 1996. Plaintiff Robert Christian Wolf is a Boulder, Colorado, resident who was named by defendent JonBenet's parents, on national television and in their book about their daughter's murder, The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth (hereinafter referred to as the "Book"), as a potential suspect in JonBenet's death. Plaintiff claims that, to the extent defendants expressed an opinion that he might have killed their daughter, defendants knew such a statement to be untrue because defendant Patsy Ramsey killed her daughter and John Ramsey assisted her in covering up the crime.
The Court draws the undisputed facts from "Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts" ("SMF") [67] and "Plaintiffs Response to Defendants' Statement of Material Facts" ("PSMF"), in which plaintiff does not dispute the overwhelming majority of defendants' factual allegations. When plaintiff has disputed a specific fact and pointed to evidence in the record that supports its version of events, the Court has viewed all evidence and factual inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff, as required on a defendant's motion for summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); McCabe v. Sharrett,12 F.3d 1558, 1560 (11th Cir. 1994); Reynolds v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.,989 F.2d 465, 469 (11th Cir.1993). In addition, the Court has reviewed plaintiffs separate statements of disputed material facts [88] ("PSDMF"), which consist, for the most part, of a restatement of theories espoused by former Boulder Police Detective Steven Thomas2, (PSDMF ¶¶ 44-75),
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1327 ]

and of a lengthy recounting of statements previously made by defendants, accompanied by editorial comments suggesting such statements to be untruthful, but without an explanation or evidence for such an assessment. (PSDMF ¶¶ 103-117, 120-249, 250-261.)3 When the Court could discern a material factual dispute from this pleading, the Court has drawn all inferences in a light most favorable to plaintiff. Accordingly, the following facts are either not disputed or are viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff.
I. The Timeline of the Crime and the Crime Scene
Sometime on the night of December 25 or the early morning of December 26, 1996, JonBenet Ramsey was murdered. (SMF ¶ 2.) JonBenet's body was found in the basement of defendant's home. (SMF 115; PSMF ¶ 5.) Defendants have never been charged, arrested, or indicted for any offense in connection with the murder of JonBenet, and they deny any involvement in her death, although they have been under an "umbrella of suspicion" from almost the beginning of the murder investigation. (SMF ¶¶6-7; PSMF ¶¶ 6-7.)
On the night of December 25, 1996, the Ramsey family attended a Christmas party at the home of their friends Fleet and Priscilla White. (SMF ¶2; PSMF ¶ 12.) Nothing out-of-the-ordinary occurred at the party and the Ramsey family appeared happy. (¶13; PSMF ¶13.) On the drive home from the party, JonBenet and her brother Burke fell asleep in the car. Defendants put the children to bed when they returned home and then went to bed soon there after. (SMF ¶ 13 PSMF ¶ 13.) The family planned to rise early the following morning because they were to fly to Charlevoix, Michigan for a family vacation. (SMF ¶ 13; PSMF ¶ 13.)
JonBenet and Burke's bedrooms were located on the second floor of the Ramsey home. There was also an empty guest bedroom on the second floor, located atop the garage. Defendants' bedroom was located on the third floor of the Ramsey home in a converted attic space. The home also contained a basement. (SMF ¶ 14; PSMF ¶ 14.) There were two stairwells leading from the second floor to the ground floor level. The back stairwell led into the kitchen, where there was a butler door that led into the basement.
Defendants claim they were not awakened during the night. A neighbor who lived across the street from defendants' home, however, reported that she heard a scream during the early morning of December 26, 1996. Experiments have demonstrated that the vent from the basement may have amplified the scream so that it could have been heard outside of the house, but not three stories up, in defendants' bedroom. (SMF ¶48; PSMF ¶ 148.) The following morning, defendants assert they woke around 5:30 a.m. and proceeded to get ready for their trip. While Mr. Ramsey took a shower, Mrs. Ramsey put back on the same outfit she had on the night before and reapplied her
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1328 ]

makeup. (SMF ¶ 15.) Mrs. Ramsey then went down the backstairs towards the second floor, then the spiral stairs to the ground floor, where, on a step near the bottom of the stairs, she discovered a handwritten note on three sheets of paper that indicated JonBenet had been kidnapped (the "Ransom Note"). (SMF ¶ 16.)
Plaintiff, however, contends that Mrs. Ramsey did not go to sleep the night of December 25, but instead killed her daughter and spent the rest of the night covering her crime, as evidenced by the fact she was wearing the same outfit the following morning. (PSMF ¶ 15.) He further posits that Mrs. Ramsey authored the Ransom Note in an attempt to stage a crime scene to make it appear as if an intruder had entered their home. (PSMF ¶16; PSDMF ¶¶ 38-39.) Plaintiff theorizes that, at some point in the night, Jon-Benet awoke after wetting her bed4 and upon learning of the bed-wetting, Mrs. Ramsey grew so angry that an "explosive encounter in the child's bathroom" occurred, during which tirade, Mrs. Ramsey "slammed" JonBenet's head against "a hard surface, such as the edge of the tub, inflicting a mortal head wound." (PSDMF ¶¶ 45, 47.) Plaintiff has provided no evidence for this particular theory.5
Plaintiff further contends, based again solely on Mr. Thomas's speculation, that "Mrs. Ramsey thought JonBenet was dead, but in fact she was unconscious with her heart still beating." (PSDMF ¶ 47.) Mr. Thomas then surmises that "[i]t was that critical moment in which she had to either call for help or find an alternative explanation for her daughter's death." (PSDMF ¶ 48.) Plaintiff then speculates that Mrs. Ramsey chose the latter route and spent the remainder of the night staging an elaborate coverup of the incident.6
Specifically, plaintiff theorizes that, with Mr. Ramsey and Burke still asleep, Mrs. Ramsey moved the body of JonBenet to the basement, returned upstairs to draft the Ransom Note, then returned to the basement where she "could have seen—perhaps by detecting a faint heartbeat or a
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1329 ]

sound or slight movement—that although completely unconscious, JonBenet was not dead." (PSDMF ¶¶ 49-50.) In Mr. Thomas's scenario then, rather than being grateful that her child was alive, Mrs. Ramsey nevertheless decided to finish the job off by fashioning a garrote from one of her paintbrushes, looping the cord around the girl's neck, and then choking JonBenet to death. (PSDMF ¶¶ 51-52.) Plaintiff notes that the fact JonBenet was "choked from behind" is consistent with the murder being committed by someone who knew JonBenet and did not want to look at her face as he or she killed her.
After murdering her child and staging the crime, plaintiff opines that, to cover her tracks, Mrs. Ramsey must have taken the items she used in the staging out of the house, "perhaps dropping them into a nearby storm sewer or among Christmas debris and wrappings in a neighbor's trash can." (¶¶ 53-54.) Indeed, the sources for the duct tape and cord used in the crime were never located, nor sourced,7 to defendants' home. Plaintiff claims that Mrs. Ramsey next placed the Ransom Note in a place "where she would be sure to `find' it." (PSDMF ¶ 53.)
Mrs. Ramsey disputes the above recitation of facts. She claims that, upon waking, she put back on the same clothes she had on the night before and applied her makeup. She then states she went downstairs to prepare for their departure on the family trip. (SMF ¶ 17.) As she descended the back stairwell, she discovered the Ransom Note and read only those few lines stating that JonBenet was kidnapped, but "safe and unharmed," and demanding $118,000 for her return. (SMF ¶ 17; PSMF ¶ 17.) Mrs. Ramsey immediately screamed and proceeded to check JonBenet's room, which was empty. (SMF ¶ 18; PSMF ¶ 8.) After hearing Mrs. Ramsey's scream, Mr. Ramsey ran downstairs and met Mrs. Ramsey in the stairwell. Together, they checked on their son who appeared to be asleep in his room. (SMF ¶ 18; PSMF ¶ 18.) Mr. Ramsey then went downstairs to read the Ransom Note, while Mrs. Ramsey called the police, informing them that her child had been kidnapped. (SMF ¶ 19; PSMF ¶ 19.) In addition to calling the police, defendants called several friends to their house, including Fleet and Priscilla White, who promptly came to the defendants' home. (SMF ¶ 20; PSMF ¶ 20.)8
Plaintiff contends Mr. Ramsey probably first grew suspicious while reading the Ransom Note that morning, which surmise is again based solely on the opinion of Mr. Thomas. (PSDMF ¶56.) Plaintiff speculates that upon examining the Ransom Note, Mr. Ramsey "must have seen his wife's writing mannerisms all over it, everything but her signature." (PSDMF ¶ 56.) Upon determining that his wife was involved in JonBenet's disappearance, plaintiff surmises that Mr. Ramsey chose to protect his wife, rather than to facilitate the capture of his daughter's murderer. (PSDMF ¶57.) Mr. Ramsey asserts, however, that he never once suspected his wife
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1330 ]

to be involved in the crime. (PSDMF ¶¶254-255.)9
A series of events transpired that severely compromised the crime scene. Office Rick French of the Boulder Police arrived at the defendants' home in a marked car a few minutes before six a.m., followed soon after by Detective Linda Arndt. (SMF ¶ 21; PSMF ¶ 21.) Contrary to normal protocol, the police did not seal off the defendants' home, with the sole exception being the interior of JonBenet's bedroom. In other words, any person in the Ramsey house could, and often did, move freely throughout the home. (SMF ¶21; PSMF ¶22.)
The Whites arrived at defendant's home at approximately 6:00 a.m., and Mr. White, alone, searched the basement within fifteen minutes of arrival. (SMF ¶ 23; PSMF ¶ 23.) Mr. White testified that when he began his search, the lights were already on in the basement and the door in the hallway leading to the basement "wine cellar" room10 was opened. (SMF ¶ 25; PSMF ¶ 25; White Dep. at 147, 151-52.) He further testified that a window in the basement playroom was broken. (SMF ¶ 26; PSMF ¶ 26; White Dep. at 28, 152 & 154.) Under the broken window, Mr. White states there was a suitcase, along with a broken shard of glass. (SMF ¶ 27; PSMF ¶ 27; White Dep. at 28-29, 156-59, & 265.) He does not, however, remember whether the window was opened or closed.11 (SMF ¶ 28; PSMF ¶ 28; White Dep. at 153.) Mr. White also opened the door to the wine cellar room, but he could not see anything inside because it was dark and he could not find the light switch. (SMF ¶29; PSMF ¶29; White Dep. at 159-61.)
Later that same morning, at around ten a.m., Mr. Ramsey also searched the basement area alone. He testified he found the broken window partially open. (SMF If 30; PSMF If 30; J. Ramsey Dep. at 30.) Under the broken window, Mr. Ramsey also saw the same suitcase seen earlier by Mr. White. Mr. Ramsey testified that the suitcase belonged to his family, but was normally stored in a different place. (SMF ¶ 31; PSMF ¶31; J. Ramsey Dep. at 17.)
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1331 ]

Mr. Ramsey then returned upstairs. Plaintiff theorizes that Mr. Ramsey actually found JonBenet's body at this time. (PSDMF ¶ 57.)
Later that afternoon, Mr. Ramsey and Mr. White together returned to the basement at the suggestion of the Boulder Police. (SMF ¶ 32; PSMF ¶ 32; White Dep. at 212-217; J. Ramsey Dep. at 17-20.) During this joint search of the basement, the men first examined the playroom and observed the broken window. (SMF ¶ 33; PSMF ¶ 33.) The men next searched a shower stall located in the basement. (SMF ¶ 34; PSMF ¶ 34.) Mr. Ramsey then noticed a heavy fireplace grate propped in front of a closet and Mr. White moved the grate so the closet could be searched. (SMF ¶ 35; PSMF ¶ 35.) Upon finding nothing unusual in the closet, the men proceeded to the wine cellar room. Mr. Ramsey entered the room first, turned on the light and, upon discovery of JonBenet's dead body, he exclaimed "Oh my God, my baby." (SMF ¶ 36, 37; PSMF ¶ 36, 37; White Dep. at 162-63, 193-93.)
JonBenet had black duct tape covering her mouth, a cord around her neck that was attached to a wooden garrote, and her hands were bound over her head in front of her; she was covered by a light-colored blanket. (SMF ¶ 138; PSMF ¶ 138.) A "Barbie" nightgown belonging to JonBenet was also found in the wine cellar near her body. (SMF ¶ 149; PSMF ¶ 149.) Jon-Benet's blood was found only on her body and the Barbie nightgown. (SMF ¶ 150; PSMF ¶ 150.) Mr. Ramsey ripped the duct tape off JonBenet's mouth and attempted to untie her hands. (SMF ¶ 39; PSMF 139.) He then carried her body upstairs. (SMF ¶ 39; PSMF ¶ 39.) It was only upon the discovery of JonBenet's body that the Boulder police began to secure properly the home as the crime scene. (SMF ¶ 53; PSMF ¶ 53.)
JonBenet's body was bound with complicated rope slipknots and a garrotte attached to her body. (Defs.' Br. In Supp. Of Summ. J. [67] at 19; SMF ¶ 163; PSMF ¶ 163.) The slipknots and the garrote are both sophisticated bondage devices designed to give control to the user. (SMF ¶ 161, 164; PSMF ¶ 161, 164.) Evidence from these devices suggests they were made by someone with expertise using rope and cords, which cords could not be found or "sourced" within defendants' home. (SMF ¶ 169; PSMF ¶ 169.) The garrote consisted of a wooden handle fashioned from the middle of a paintbrush, found in the paint tray in the boiler room. The end of a nylon cord was tied to this wooden handle and, on the other end, was a loop with a slipknot, with JonBenet's neck within the loop. (SMF ¶¶ 157-158; PSMF ¶¶ 157-158.) The end portion of the paintbrush used to construct the garrote was never found. (SMF ¶59; PSMF ¶ 159.) No evidence exists that either defendant knew how to tie such knots. (SMF ¶ 162; PSMF ¶ 162.) Further, fibers consistent with those of the cord used to make the slip knots and garrote were found on JonBenet's bed. (SMF ¶ 168; PSMF ¶ 168.) Although plaintiff agrees the garrote is the instrument used to murder JonBenet, he argues that the cord with which the wrists were tied would not have bound a live child and is evidence of a staging. (PSDMF ¶ 51.)
The black duct tape used on JonBenet's mouth has also not been sourced to defendants. (SMF ¶ 170; PSMF ¶ 170.) Both ends of the duct tape found on her were torn, indicating that it came from a roll of tape that had been used before. (SMF ¶ 171; PSMF ¶ 171.) No similar duct tape was found in the house, nor is there evidence that defendants ever used or owned such duct tape. (SMF ¶ 172; PSMF ¶ 172.) Plaintiff also notes that the strip of duct tape found on JonBenet's mouth
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1332 ]

had a bloody mucous on it and a "perfect set of child's lip prints, which did not indicate a tongue impression or resistance." (PSDMF ¶ 53.) Animal hair, alleged to be from a beaver, was found on the duct tape. (SMF ¶ 183; PSMF ¶ 183.) Nothing in defendants' home matches the hair. (SMF ¶ 183; PSMF ¶ 183.) Dark animal hairs were found on JonBenet's hands that also have not been matched to anything in defendants' home. (SMF ¶ 184; PSMF ¶ 184.)
Several recently-made unidentified shoeprints were found in the basement, imprinted in mold growing on the basement floor. (SMF ¶ 151; PSMF ¶ 151.) In particular, a shoeprint of a "HI-TEC" brand mark on the sole of a shoe was found. (SMF ¶ 152; PSMF ¶ 152.) Defendants do not own any "HI-TEC" brand shoes, and none of the shoes found in their home match the shoeprint marks. (SMF ¶ 153; PSMF ¶ 153.) Another partial shoeprint was found near where JonBenet's body was found. (SMF ¶ 155; PSMF ¶ 155.) This shoeprint left only a partial logo. The owner of the "HI-TEC" shoe that made the shoeprints at the murder scene has never been identified. (SMF ¶ 154, 155; PSMF ¶ 154, 155.) In addition, on the wine-cellar door, there is a palmprint that does not match either of defendants' palmprints. (SMF ¶ 156; PSMF ¶ 156.) The individual to whom it belongs had not yet been identified. (SMF ¶156; PSMF ¶ 156.)
Finally, items were left behind that defendants assert they did not own. (Defs.' Br. In Supp. Of Summ. J. [67] at 18-19.) A baseball bat not owned by the Ramseys found on the north side of the house has fibers consistent with fibers found in the carpet in the basement where JonBenet's body was found. (SMF ¶ 185; PSMF ¶ 185.) A rope was found inside a brown paper sack in the guest bedroom of defendants' home, neither of which belonged to defendants. (SMF ¶ 181; PSMF ¶ 181.) Small pieces of the brown sack material were found in the "vacuuming" of JonBenet's bed and in the body bag that was used to transport her body. (SMF ¶ 181; PSMF ¶ 181.) Brown cotton fibers on JonBenet's body, the paintbrush, the duct tape and on the ligature were not sourced and do not match anything in the Ramsey home. (SMF ¶ 181; PSMF ¶ 181.)
The autopsy of JonBenet's body was conducted on December 27, 1996 by the Boulder County Coroner's Office. (SMF ¶ 40; PSMF ¶ 40.) The cause of JonBenet's death was asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma. (SMF ¶ 41; PSMF 41.) The autopsy report supports the conclusion that she was alive before she was asphyxiated by strangulation and that she fought her attacker in some manner. (SMF ¶ 42-43, 46, 48; PSMF ¶ 42-43, 46, 48.) Evidence gathered during the autopsy is consistent with the inference that she struggled to remove the garrote from her neck. (SMF ¶44; PSMF ¶ 44.) Moreover, both parties agree the autopsy report reveals injury to JonBenet's genitalia consistent with a sexual assault shortly before her death. (SMF ¶ 48; PSMF ¶ 48.)12 Although no head injury was visible when she was first discovered, the autopsy revealed that she received a severe blow to her head shortly before or around the time of the murder. (SMF ¶ 51; PSMF ¶ 51. See also Report of Michael Doberson, M.D., Ph.D. at 6(C) attach, as Ex. 3 to Defs.' Ex. Vol. I, Part A
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1333 ]

(stating the "presence of hemorrhage does indicated that the victim was alive when she sustained the head injury, however the relative small amount of subdural hemorrhage indicates that the injury occurred in the perimortem (close to death)13 period.").)
The coroner took nail clippings from JonBenet. Male DNA was found under JonBenet's right hand fingernail that does not match that of any Ramsey. (SMF ¶ 174; PSMF ¶ 174.) Defendants also assert that male DNA was found under Jon-Benet's left hand fingernail, which also does not match that of any Ramsey. (SMF ¶ 173.) In addition, male DNA was found in JonBenet's underwear that does not match that of any Ramsey and has not yet been sourced. (SMF ¶¶ 175, 178; PSMF ¶¶ 75, 178.) The Boulder Police Department has yet to identify the male whose DNA was found at the crime scene. (SMF ¶77; PSMF ¶77.) Finally, a Caucasian "pubic or auxiliary" hair was found on the blanket covering JonBenet's body. (SMF ¶79; PSMF ¶79.) The hair does not match that of any Ramsey and has not been sourced. (SMF ¶ 80; PSMF ¶ 180.)
Finally, the coroner's report notes injuries on the right side of JonBenet's face and left lower back. While defendants assert that these injuries are consistent with the use of a stun gun, plaintiff notes that the coroner's report does not expressly state the injuries were the result of such an instrument. (SMF ¶ 47; PSMF 47.) Dr. Michael Doberson, a forensic pathologist retained by defendants who examined the Boulder Coroner's autopsy report and autopsy photos, concludes the injuries to "the right side of the face as well as on the lower left back are patterned injuries most consistent with the application of a stun gun." (Report of Michael Doberson, M.D., Ph.D. at 5(A), attach, as Ex. 3 to Defs.' Ex. Vol. I, Part A.)

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