DENVER — The former Boulder police detective who was first on the scene when the body of JonBenet Ramsey was discovered should be allowed to rebut allegations that she botched portions of the investigation, her lawyers told a federal appeals court Tuesday.
A federal judge in June 2001 dismissed a lawsuit filed by Linda Arndt, who claimed that her supervisors in the Boulder Police Department used her as a scapegoat and then refused to allow her to hold a news conference to defend herself.
A lawyer representing the city of Boulder told a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Arndt’s desire to defend her reputation could jeopardize the investigation into the unsolved slaying, and therefore she does not enjoy free-speech protections under the First Amendment.
In his June 12, 2001, ruling, U.S. District Judge William Downes said the comments Arndt wanted to make to defend her reputation did not touch on a matter of public concern. Downes said a Boulder Police Department policy limiting the dissemination of information on an investigation properly prohibited her from making the comments.
Arndt was the first detective who arrived at the Ramsey home on Dec. 26, 1996, and was the only police officer there for nearly three hours. She was criticized for allowing JonBenet’s father John Ramsey to search the home without an accompanying police officer and for placing a blanket over the girl’s body, possibly contaminating evidence. She also was criticized for failing to take statements immediately from JonBenet’s parents.
She was removed from the case five months later, and resigned from the department in 1999.
Arndt’s attorney Bruce Jones said Arndt’s proposed news conference was a matter of public concern, because it could help the public determine how well the police were conducting the investigation.
That would have ensured her free-speech protections, Jones said.