Reporter Charlie Brennan Sues DA Stan Garnett To Release Indictment For Murder Of JonBenet Ramsey
A Boulder County reporter Charlie Brennan is suing Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett with the help of a press advocacy group to publicize the 1999 indictment of a grand jury in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case.
JonBenet Ramsey was six years old when she was found murdered in the basement of her Boulder, Colo., home on Dec. 26, 1996. JonBenet, a former child beauty pageant queen, was found strangled to death with a fractured skull and evidence of sexual assault after her parents reported her missing early that morning. John Ramsey and his wife Patsy Ramsey, who died in 2006 from ovarian cancer, were both considered suspects, and a Grand Jury was convened in 1999 to determine whether or not to charge JonBenet’s parents. They lived with constant suspicion from the press and public until they were cleared by DNA evidence in 2008. Still, many conspiracy theorists and speculators continue to spread the belief that the Ramseys did, in fact, kill their young daughter.
Former detective Steve Thomas, who worked on the JonBenet case for about two years, published a book in 2000 titled JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation, in which he posited that Mrs. Ramsey had somehow injured her daughter’s head during an argument, panicked and then strangled her. At the time of the book’s release, Mrs. Ramsey’s lawyer dismissed the allegations as “fiction and utter nonsense.”
“[Mr. Thomas’ book] is refuted in its entirety by medical evidence,” L. Lin Wood, Mrs. Ramsey’s attorney told The New York Times.
Though Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey have both been exonerated, new information has arisen about the 1999 Grand Jury trail that have reporters clamoring for more information on the initial investigation into the Ramsey’s.
In January, Charlie Brennan of The Daily Camera published a piece citing several sources that said that the Grand Jury had voted to indict the Ramseys of child abuse resulting in death, charges that can result in 48 years in prison. Alex Hunter, the District Attorney at the time, decided not to sign the indictment because he felt he did not have enough evidence to prove the case against the Ramseys.
In his article, Brennan questions whether or not Hunter was within his legal rights to refuse to sign the indictment as D.A.
“The Colorado statute governing grand jury practices says… that ‘every indictment shall be signed’ by the foreman of the grand jury and the prosecuting attorney,” University of Colorado Law professor Mim Wesson told The Daily Camera.
Brennan reached out to Hunter, who resigned in 2001, and the D.A. insisted that every action taken during the JonBenet Grand Jury was documented and followed legal procedure.
“Colorado statues, the ethical canons which govern the practice of law, and the Boulder District Court’s oaths, instructions and orders in the JonBenet Ramsey grand jury proceedings, are well established and absolutely clear with respect to the various participants’ legal obligations, duties and responsibilities, including the inviolate secrecy of the proceedings and the differing burdens of proof applicable to jurors and prosecutors.
“As the duly elected district attorney at the time and as an officer of the court then and now, I must respectfully decline further comment,” Hunter told The Daily Camera.
Hunter’s refusal to discuss the Grand Jury Is consistent with statements he made when he announced that he would not be going forward with the case against the Ramsey's.
“Under no circumstances will I or any of my advisers, prosecutors, the law enforcement officers working on this case or the grand jurors discuss grand jury proceedings today or ever, unless ordered by the court,” Hunter said at a 1999 news conference.
After The Daily Camera broke the news of the Grand Jury indictment, Mr. Ramsey dismissed the new turn of events as “just more drama” to People.
Eight months after the initial report, Brennan and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are suing in an attempt to get District Attorney Garnett, to release the indictment on the grounds of the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act.
“The plaintiffs believe… that the indictment is a criminal justice record that reflects official action by the grand jury, and accordingly that it is subject to mandatory disclosure upon request,” reads the complaint put forth by attorney Thomas B. Kelley.
The lawsuit comes after two attempts made by Brennan to obtain the indictment records under the open records act – the first in March with the backing of The Daily Camera, the second in June by Kelley.
District Attorney Garnett plans to fight the charges in court.
“We will respond to the motion in a pleading court. Protecting the integrity of the grand jury process is important to every district attorney,” Garnett said Wednesday.
– Olivia Truffaut-Wong