III. The Investigation of the Murder - IV. Publicity Surrounding the Crime

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III. The Investigation of the Murder - IV. Publicity Surrounding the Crime

Post by Mama2JML on Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:49 am

III. The Investigation of the Murder
At the time of JonBenet's murder, the Boulder Police Department had limited experience in conducting a murder investigation. (SMF ¶ 70; PSMF ¶ 70.) Commander Jon Eller was primarily responsible for the investigation, which was his first murder investigation. (SMF ¶ 67; PSMF ¶ 67.) One lead detective assigned to the case, Steven Thomas, had no prior experience with a murder investigation and had previously served as an undercover narcotics officer. (SMF ¶ 68; PSMF ¶ 68.) Finally, the officer who took charge of the investigation in October 1997, Mark Beckner, also had limited homicide experience. (SMF ¶ 69; PSMF ¶ 69.)
Many mistakes were made during the course of the investigation. For example, a series of events compromised the crime scene, as discussed supra. Moreover, the police did not request to interview defendants separately on the day that JonBenet's body was found. (SMF ¶ 57; PSMF ¶ 57.) They did, however, question defendants jointly at various times on December 26, 27 and 28, and, soon thereafter, began to focus the investigation on defendants as the main subjects. (SMF ¶¶ 54, 71-72; PSMF ¶ 54, 71-72.) Pursuant to the FBI's suggestion that the Boulder Police publicly name defendants as subjects and apply intense media pressure to them so that they would confess to the crime, the police released many statements that implied defendants were guilty and were not cooperating with police. (SMF ¶¶ 74-75; PSMF ¶¶ 74-75.) In addition to official police releases, many individual officers also released information about the investigation without official authorization, some of which disclosures were highly confidential and potentially undermined the investigation.
During the course of the investigation, defendants signed over one hundred releases for information requested by the police, and provided all evidence and information requested by the police. (SMF ¶ 61; PSMF 61.) Upon request, within days after the murder and in the months that followed, defendants provided the police with historical handwriting samples and supervised written exemplars. (SMF ¶ 55; PSMF ¶ 55.) Defendants also gave hair, including pubic hair, and DNA samples to the police. (SMF ¶ 56, 60; PSMF ¶ 56, 60.) Despite widespread criticism that defendants failed to cooperate in the murder investigation, defendants note that they agreed, on at least three occasions, to be interviewed separately by representatives of the police or the Boulder County District Attorney's Office. (SMF ¶ 62; PSMF ¶ 62.)
In March 1997, Andrew Louis Smit was hired by the Boulder District Attorney's Office due to his extensive experience as a homicide investigator for thirty years. (SMF ¶ 94; PSMF ¶ 94.) Detective Smit
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1337 ]

is widely considered to be an expert investigator who has successfully cracked other child murder investigations. (See, e.g., SMF ¶ 94; PSMF ¶ 94; Hunter Dep. at 46-47; Steven Thomas, JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation 167-169 (2001).) During the course of his tenure with the police department, Detective Smit became familiar with all aspects of the murder investigation. (SMF ¶¶ 95-96; PSMF ¶¶ 95-96.) He resigned from the investigation at some point in September 1998, however, because he felt that the Boulder Police Department refused to investigate leads that pointed to an intruder as the murderer of JonBenet, and instead insisted on focusing only on defendants as the culprits. (SMF ¶¶ 97, 101; PSMF ¶ 97, 101.) Two other men, Detective Steve Ainsworth and Assistant District Attorney Trip DeMuth, who also believed the evidence pointed toward an intruder as the killer, were soon thereafter removed from the investigation. (SMF ¶¶ 98-100; 102; PSMF ¶ 99-100; 102.)
In June 1998, the Boulder police presented their evidence to the Boulder County District Attorney. (SMF 84; PSMF ¶ 84.) At some point in the summer of 1998, then-District Attorney Alex Hunter decided to convene a grand jury to investigate the murder of JonBenet and possibly bring charges. (SMF ¶ 86; PSMF ¶ 86.) On October 13, 1999, the grand jury was discharged by District Attorney Hunter with no indictment issued. (SMF ¶ 91; PSMF ¶ 91.) The District Attorney, and all other prosecutors involved in the proceedings, believed at that time that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against any person, including defendants, in connection with the murder. (SMF ¶¶ 91-92; PSMF ¶¶ 91-92.)

IV. Publicity Surrounding the Crime
Beginning on the morning of December 26, 1996, there has been and continues to be considerable public interest and media attention devoted to JonBenet's murder and the subsequent investigation into the crime. As discussed supra, the Boulder Police Department utilized the press, in an attempt to "smoke out" JonBenet's killer. In addition to this intentional use of the press, a number of leaks of confidential information, at various stages of the murder investigation, served to hamper the ability of the Boulder Police Department to conduct an effective investigation into crime. Finally, many people have attempted to capitalize on and profit from the widespread interest in JonBenet's murder. Indeed, plaintiff has attempted to gain a book deal and the chief theorist behind plaintiffs claims, former Detective Steve Thomas, also wrote a book. Likewise, the defendants have written a book about the murder, entitled The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth. (SMF ¶ 8.)
Defendants assert that they wrote their book in response to media speculation that they were involved in their child's murder and to correct inaccurate media reports. Plaintiff, in contrast, asserts that defendants' Book was authored in an attempt to "escape prosecution for the murder of Jon-Benet." (PSMF ¶ 8.) The Book sets forth defendants' account of the investigation of their daughter's murder and their view that the police did not adequately investigate several leads. (SMF ¶ 9; PSMF ¶ 9.) In the Book, defendants promote the theory that an unknown intruder entered their home and murdered their daughter. (SMF ¶ 2, 11) Defendants state they believed when writing the Book, and believe now, that the statements contained in the Book represent either truthful fact or sincere opinion. (SMF ¶ 9.)
Defendants' Book names five people, including plaintiff, whom defendants contend
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1338 ]

should be further investigated. (SMF ¶ 328; PSMF ¶ 328.) For example, one lead mentioned is Michael Helgoth, a man who committed suicide two months after the murder and one day after District Attorney Hunter issued a statement that the authorities were narrowing their search for the murderer of JonBenet Ramsey. (SMF ¶ 281; PSMF ¶ 281.) Indeed, a stun gun was found near Mr. Helgoth's body, as well as boots with a HI-TEC logo like that left on the basement floor of defendants' home. (SMF ¶ 281; PSMF ¶ 281.) See discussion supra at 1332, 1333.
Another lead mentioned is Gary Oliva, a transient with a history of child molestation, who was seen in the Boulder area in December 1996, picked up his mail one block from the Ramsey home, and was present at a memorial service for JonBenet. (SMF ¶ 282; PSMF ¶ 282.)
Another purported lead was Bill McReynolds, who portrayed Santa Claus at a Christmas Party at defendants' home in December 1996, whose wife had written a play about a young girl held captive in a basement, whose daughter had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted twenty-two years to the day before JonBenet's death, and who had written a card to JonBenet that was found in her trash can after the murder. (SMF ¶ 283; PSMF ¶ 283.)
Finally, another lead identified by Detective Smit was plaintiff, who in his estimation presented too many "unanswered questions." (SMF ¶ 284; PSMF ¶ 284.) Defendants identified all of these men, and others, in their book as possible suspects. (SMF ¶ 328; PSMF ¶ 328; The Book at 165-168, 199-201, 215-216, & 310-312.) In addition, the Book discusses, but does not name, eight other leads. (SMF ¶ 328; PSMF ¶ 328.) In Chapter 33 of the Book, defendants present a detailed profile of the smurderer. The profile offered is that of a male ex-convict, aged 25-35, who is familiar with and owns a stun gun. (SMF ¶ 329; PSMF ¶ 329.) The passage at issue from the Ramsey book, that is the heart of the present libel claim, criticizes the Boulder Police Department for failing to investigate these possible leads in the murder investigation. (SMF ¶ 180; PSMF ¶ 180.)
In addition to authoring the Book, defendants have appeared on various news programs. (PSDMF ¶¶ 105-118.) On March 24, 2000, defendants appeared on NBC's "Today Show," a television broadcast, in a segment taped in February 2000 with Katie Couric. (SMF ¶ 330; PSMF ¶ 330.) It is from this broadcast that plaintiffs slander claim arises. Defendants did not have any influence or control over the visuals displayed when they spoke, were not told that a photograph of plaintiff would be displayed during their appearance on the show, and were not told before taping what specific questions would be posed to them during the taping. (SMF ¶ 331; PSMF ¶ 331.) In other words, defendants had no editorial control over how the interview was edited or presented. (SMF ¶ 332; PSMF ¶ 332.) During the interview, Mr. Ramsey stated that:
I can tell you when when we first started looking at—at one particular lead early on—my reaction was This is it. This is the killer. And our investigator said `Whoa, whoa, whoa.' He'd say, `Don't do a Boulder Police on me. Don't rush to conclusions'—
(Transcript of Interview attach, as Tab 38 to Defs.' Ex., Vol. 1; J. Ramsey Aff. ¶ 19.) He claims that these statements were not in relation to plaintiff, but rather to Michael Helgoth,18 although plaintiffs photograph was being superimposed on the
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telecast by NBC. (SMF ¶¶ 335; 338.) Plaintiff contends that the above statement, however, was intended by defendants to relate to him. (PSMF ¶¶ 335, 338.)
For his part, plaintiff too has appeared before the media and profited from discussing and critiquing the murder investigation. (SMF ¶ 292; PSMF ¶ 292.) In 1997, plaintiff voluntarily gave an interview to Hard Copy, a syndicated television program, in which he claimed to be a suspect in the murder of JonBenet and for which he received $5,000 compensation. (SMF ¶ 293; PSMF ¶ 293.) In addition, plaintiff discussed his status as a suspect with the news tabloid, The National Enquirer, and received $250 for that interview. (SMF ¶ 294; PSMF ¶ 294.) In addition, plaintiff provided information to Lawrence Schiller for use in his 1998 book about the murder, entitled Perfect Murder, Perfect Town. In several passages, attributed to plaintiff, the latter discusses his arrest and interrogation by the Boulder Police Department. (SMF ¶¶ 295-296; PSMF ¶¶ 295-296.)19
Plaintiff also attempted to capitalize on his association with the murder investigation through a book deal. On plaintiffs computer was a letter dated March 2, 1999, addressed to David Granger of Esquire magazine, discussing his status as a suspect in the murder and his related media and print appearances. (SMF ¶ 298; PSMF ¶ 298.) The letter requests a "generous fee" in return for plaintiff authoring a book about JonBenet's murder. (SMF ¶ 298; PSMF ¶ 298.)
Plaintiffs counsel Darnay Hoffman also became interested in the case early in the murder investigation and has contributed to the continued media interest through the filing of various lawsuits. In March 1997, Mr. Hoffman sent a letter to the Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter suggesting that Charles Lindbergh had killed his child in a hoax kidnapping and that one of the defendants had killed JonBenet in a similar type hoax. (SMF ¶ 339; PSMF ¶ 339.) In May 1997, Mr. Hoffman sent Mr. Hunter a second letter in which Mr. Hoffman theorized that Mrs. Ramsey killed her daughter, through a blow to the head, in a fit of rage caused by unhappiness, depression and marital problems. (SMF ¶ 340; PSMF ¶ 340.) The Boulder authorities did not take Mr. Hoffman's unsubstantiated theories seriously and considered much of his submissions to be "off the wall." (SMF ¶ 341; PSMF ¶ 341.)
In the fall of 1997 Mr. Hoffman began to solicit the involvement of various handwriting experts, claiming that, although prior expert reports given to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation showed Mrs. Ramsey to be at the "very lowest end of the spectrum, i.e. there is little or no basis for a match," it would be a "career move" for an expert to submit an affidavit for use by Mr. Hoffman. (SMF ¶ 343; PSMF ¶ 343.) Indeed, forensic document examiners were eager to jump into the high-profile investigation. In July 1997, Ms. Wong, now plaintiffs expert, had originally contacted defendants' attorneys and offered to analyze the Ransom Note and point out weaknesses in analysis by "Government handwriting experts." (SMF ¶ 342; PSMF ¶ 342.) Defendants declined such an offer.
[ 253 F.Supp.2d 1340 ]

In September 1998, Ms. Wong wrote District Attorney Hunter, Assistant District Attorney Michael Kane, and Judge Roxanne Bailin, asking to testify before the Grand Jury. (SMF ¶ 347; PSMF ¶ 347.) By letter dated January 20, 1999, Mr. Hunter rejected the request, informing Ms. Wong that it was his opinion that she did not use scientifically reliable methods, her testimony would be inadmissible, and that she lacked credibility. (SMF ¶ 348; PSMF ¶ 348.) In addition, Mr. Epstein, defendants' other handwriting expert, also wrote to Mr. Hunter, at sometime before the end of 2000, to offer his assistance in examining the Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 349; PSMF ¶ 349.) Mr. Hunter did not take Mr. Epstein up on his offer, either. (SMF ¶ 349; PSMF ¶349.)
On November 14, 1997, Mr. Hoffman filed a Complaint in the District Court for Boulder County, Colorado, on his own behalf as a plaintiff, asking that Mr. Hunter be forced to explain why he had not filed murder charges against Mrs. Ramsey. (SMF ¶ 344; PSMF ¶ 344.) Attached to the Complaint was the affidavit of Ms. Wong who, notwithstanding her earlier overture to the Ramseys, now claimed that Mrs. Ramsey had written the Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 345; PSMF ¶ 345.) Mr. Hoffman's complaint was dismissed on January 20, 1998. (SMF ¶ 346; PSMF ¶ 346.)
In March 2000, Mr. Hoffman again filed suit, again on his own behalf as plaintiff, against defendants in the Supreme Court of New York, County of New York, for $25,000,000 in damages based on the allegation that he was defamed by certain passages in the defendants' Book. (SMF ¶ 353; PSMF ¶ 353.) On April 21, 2000, Mr. Hoffman dismissed this complaint. (SMF ¶ 354; PSMF ¶ 354.)
In addition, Mr. Hoffman has served as a long time source to news tabloids for information about the investigation. (See, e.g., John Latta, "JonBenet's Dad Was Framedby Mom, say insiders,") NATIONAL EXAMINER, June 24, 1997 (insider referred to is Mr. Hoffman); Art Dworkin, "Jon-Benet's Dad Lied Under Oath to Hide Death Fight," NATIONAL EXAMINER dated March 7, 2000 (quoting Mr. Hoffman's comments about Mr. Ramsey's deposition testimony); Art Dworkin, "Five Years Later JonBenet Parents Are Doing Little To Find Killer," NATIONAL EXAMINER, December 11, 2001 (quoting Mr. Hoffman as stating, among other things, that defendants "JUST DON'T CARE" about their daughter's murder investigation.)20

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
~Marilyn Monroe

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