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Back to 2000 Headlines

8/11/2000

New law prompts Ramse

by Travis Henry
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER A change to Colorado statutes may be the reason that John and Patsy Ramsey have agreed to participate in interviews with the Boulder police, a source close to the case has disclosed.

According to the source, who asked not be identified, prosecutors working for the Boulder County District Attorney's Office threatened in July to convene a new grand jury if the Ramseys didn't submit to new interviews with Boulder police.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Wise would neither confirm nor deny that the Ramseys were threatened with a new grand jury to investigate the December 1996 murder of their daughter JonBenet, but said he was well aware of the change in statutes regarding grand juries.

The Ramseys are scheduled to meet with Boulder law enforcement later this month.

Under a new law passed this year, witnesses in grand juries can no longer examine statements made by them relayed to prosecutors by other witnesses who aren't law officials.

"Under the new law, if you made a statement to your neighbor and your neighbor repeated that to police, you are not necessarily entitled to that," Appellate Chief Deputy Bill Nagle said about the change in the statute.

The previous law allowed grand jury witnesses to examine any statement the prosecution has that they have made that relates to the case.

Witnesses now are only allowed to review and copy statements that they have made under oath or to law enforcement and prosecution officials.

Because of the new law, the Ramseys could risk making conflicting statements when testifying and damage their credibility.

A new grand jury could also produce new evidence against the Ramseys that they would have no knowledge of and little time to dispute before prosecutors investigated it.

Both of those facts were brought up by prosecutors during negotiations about an interview, according to a source.

While not specifically commenting on the Ramsey case, prosecutor Trip DeMuth said that the law change may give prosecutors some leverage in a grand jury where witnesses once could examine all of the evidence against them and then invoke their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Ramsey attorney Lin Wood said prosecutors did make a veiled threat on July 7 to convene a grand jury with the Ramseys as the specific targets, but that was not the reason the couple agreed to an interview.

"There is nothing about any changes in the law that serves as the basis of John and Patsy's reason to agree to this interrogation," Wood said.

Wood said his clients will participate in the interviews against his legal advice.

"They are trusting Mark Beckner to live up to his word," Wood said.

Beckner, Boulder's police chief, has said he has new questions for the Ramseys that would help move the investigation forward.

Wood said the Ramseys have put no restrictions on the interviews that will be held in Atlanta, other than having him present.

"They desperately want this investigation to move forward," Wood said. "They have agreed to everything."

The interview will be between the Ramseys and seven prosecutors and law officers including Beckner, Cmdr. Tom Wickman and contracted prosecutor Michael Kane.

No one who works full time for the Boulder County District Attorney's Office will be present.

"You would think someone in the district attorney's office would want to be knowledgeable," Wood said.

But Wise said Kane, Mitch Morrissey of the Denver District Attorney's Office and Adams County prosecutor Bruce Levin will attend as agents of Boulder County.

Kane, Levin and Morrissey made up the team that led a 13-month Boulder County grand jury investigation that ended without an indictment last fall.

"If anything comes out of these interviews, they will forward the information to us, and we will be working closely with the police department," Wise said.

Although Wood likened the Ramsey interviewers to a "lion with its mouth open, ready to bite off their heads," he said he hoped that law enforcement is serious about its pledge to follow up on other leads in the case.

Beckner recently said police are revisiting a case that occurred in September 1997 to see if there is any connection to JonBenet's murder . In that case, an intruder sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl after allegedly hiding in the girl's Boulder home for hours.

Wood said that although the Ramseys have been generally cooperative all along, their submission to the August interviews should clear the air about their desire to find their daughter's killer.

"People knock this family really hard for what was perceived to be a lack of cooperation," Wood said. "Those people should give them credit for what they are doing now."