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Back to 1998 Headlines

3/25/1998

Selection of jury to begin on April 22

by Pam Regensberg
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- Boulder officials said Tuesday they will soon begin selecting members for a grand jury that may consider the JonBenet Ramsey murder case.

Media entities are already lining up for an April 8 lottery that will select the 11 media outlets allowed to be present during the jury-selection process. Three representatives each from newspapers, radio and TV will be selected. Two other seats will be drawn at random.

Daily Times-Call, the New Yorker Magazine, KOA Radio and KCNC TV have already submitted requests. Many more organizations, however, are expected to be added to the list before the drawing.

Except for the jury selection, all of the grand jury proceedings will be secret either until an indictment is made public or a report is filed.

The decision to impanel a grand jury comes after lead investigator Cmdr. Mark Beckner said last week that the probe ``has progressed to the point at which the authority of a grand jury is necessary in order to have a complete investigation.''

The term of the current standing grand jury in Boulder County is about to expire, and District Judge Joseph Bellipanni is scheduled to begin selecting a new panel on April 22. That jury, consisting of 12 jurors and two alternates, will be chosen from a pool of about 140 potential jurors. The term of appointment is 12 months and may be extended to 18 months.

District Attorney Alex Hunter, however, has said only that he is considering using a grand jury, but refused to say when he will make a decision.

So far, authorities have been unable to build a case during an exhausting 15-month investigation that has yielded insufficient evidence to charge anyone with the child's murder .

Officials have hinted for months that a grand jury may be the only way to get testimony from reluctant witness, including the slain 6-year-old's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey .

The Ramseys have declined additional interviews with police and refused to allow their 10-year-old son Burke to be questioned.

If called before a secret grand jury, witnesses must answer questions or convince a judge they have ``good cause'' for their refusal. Under Colorado law, there is no prohibition against calling children before the panel.

While the law allows grand jury witnesses to bring attorneys, the lawyers are not allowed to participate in the proceedings, all of which are secret. Nine of 12 jury members are required to recommend an indictment, but the district attorney is not bound by the grand jury recommendation.