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2/13/1997

JonBenet autopsy on h

by Pam Regensberg
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- The public may have to wait until Friday to see whether the autopsy report on JonBenet Ramsey will be disclosed.

District Court Judge Carol Glowinsky said during a 2\A-hour hearing Wednesday that she will issue a written ruling on the matter no later than 5 p.m. Friday.

The Boulder County Coroner's Office wants the document sealed until an arrest is made, Deputy County Attorney Madeline Mason told the court.

But Daily Times-Call, several Colorado newspapers and television networks want the public document unsealed.

Mason maintained that releasing the autopsy report would likely hinder the now seven-week-old investigation into the slaying of the 6-year-old beauty queen.

Though the document is a public record, its release would not benefit the public, Mason added.

``The successful conclusion of this investigation outweighs the public's right to know,'' she said.

The report contains information known only to authorities and the killer, Mason added.

Releasing those facts could make it difficult for police and the prosecutors to do their jobs, she added.

This is the first time Boulder County has asked the court to seal an autopsy.

Supporting Mason was Boulder County Coroner John Meyer and District Attorney Alex Hunter.

``The public has a right to know in good time, but that time is not right now,'' Hunter said. ``For this information to be released, it could badly prejudice our ability to search for the truth in this case.''

However, Denver attorney Tom Kelley said the county's argument is based on speculation of what might happen if the document is made public.

``It's impossible for the court to say what might or might not happen,'' said Kelley, who represented the Times-Call and several other media.

Kelley added that if the court seals the public record it would have the appearance that it is ``being a part of the team of secrecy.''

Kelley and attorney Bruce Jones, who represented a Denver television station, objected strongly to the opposition's presentation of sealed information to the court. Neither Kelley nor Jones viewed the secret papers that apparently outlined the Boulder Police Department's objection to releasing the autopsy.

Kelley declined an invitation to view the documents behind closed doors. In order to look at the secret papers, Kelley would have had to promise not to reveal to his clients what was in the documents. Kelley said that would be unfair to his clients.

The request to keep the lid on the autopsy follows suit with the city and county's conduct throughout the homicide investigation. One of the few details that officials have released is that JonBenet was strangled and was found in the basement of her family's Boulder home the day after Christmas.

The media have reported that she was sexually assaulted and suffered a fractured skull, but police have not confirmed that.