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Ramsey grand jury del

By B.J. Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- The JonBenet Ramsey case entered the home stretch on Tuesday, but no one knows how long that stretch will last.

The eight women and four men making up the grand jury that will likely decide the future of the case strolled into the Boulder County Justice Center just before 9 a.m. on Tuesday, and the doors to the grand jury room slammed behind them.

Windows on the jury room were covered and armed guards stood outside the door as the long-awaited grand jury inquiry began under the same secrecy that has accompanied the investigation into the 6-year-old beauty queen's death for nearly two years.

The jury, which met for more than eight hours Tuesday, could choose to hand up indictments in the slaying, but District Attorney Alex Hunter would have veto power over any jury action.

The district attorney's office acknowledged the jury had begun its work, but promised to say nothing more.

``We won't be issuing any releases or saying anything about the jury's schedule or anything else,'' DA spokeswoman Suzanne Laurion said. ``I've got nothing to do -- I'm going home to be a soccer mom.''

It's anyone's guess, however, when the grand jury will go home.

Former prosecutor Craig Silverman, who now serves a legal analyst for the media, said he hopes Hunter will feel a sense of urgency to complete the grand jury process.

``The only thing we know for sure is that the killer of JonBenet Ramsey has not been brought to justice,'' he said. ``Given that this is a murder case, they should work as expeditiously as possible. Normally there is a real sense of urgency, but we haven't seen that throughout this case.''

Silverman estimated the grand jury would take ``a couple months'' to finish its work if it meets regularly.

``So you multiply that two months times X, since this is Boulder,'' he added.

Silverman said he was told by Assistant District Attorney Bill Wise that Hunter was in the grand jury room on Tuesday.

``That's encouraging,'' Silverman said. ``It's my understanding that he will be in there throughout. That way he can get a feel for what is coming in, as opposed to reading cold transcripts.''

Hunter was joined in the jury room by grand jury specialist Mike Kane, who will run the grand jury, and recently appointed special deputies Mitch Morrisey and Bruce Levin.

Levin, on loan from the Adams County DA's office, has tried four first-degree murder cases in the past two years.

Morrisey's presence on the case, however, may be more telling. The chief deputy for Denver DA Bill Ritter, Morrisey is regarded as a DNA expert and tried the first Denver case in which DNA evidence was used.

According to Silverman, Morrisey's presence indicates ``they have some sort of trace evidence.'' Silverman also pointed to DNA expert Barry Scheck's visit to Colorado several weeks ago.

``Scheck went with the prosecutors to the (Colorado Bureau of Investigations) when he was here,'' Silverman said. ``He went there for a reason.''

Silverman said in his experience the first day of a grand jury hearing is normally used by prosecutors ``to lay out the case in general and provide the jurors with background,'' but said prosecutors would almost certainly address scheduling matters such as the frequency and length of the meetings.

A persistent critic of the investigation who last year said the case wouldn't be solved ``absent a confession,'' Silverman said he is slightly more optimistic these days.

He called the reported presence of a taped 911 call made by Patsy Ramsey on the morning JonBenet was found dead ``a startling development,'' and said the call would constitute probable cause for arrest if it is shown that the Ramsey 's 10-year-old son Burke was in the room when the call was made.

The Ramseys reportedly told police Burke was asleep throughout that part of the ordeal.

``If they catch them in a lie over that call, it could be huge,'' he said.