Newcomers to this blog are advised to begin with the first two posts, Just the Facts, Ma'am and Case Solved, which explain in very general terms why I believe I've solved this case. Some important questions are answered in the following post, Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, Misdirections. After that feel free to browse whatever topics might interest you (see blog archive).

NB: If anyone has trouble posting a comment, email it to doktorgosh (at), and I'll post it for you.

Notice to readers of my Kindle book: I recently noticed that, on certain devices (though not all), the Table of Contents begins with Chapter One and omits the Introduction and Preface. Since the Introduction is especially important, I urge everyone to make sure to begin reading at the very beginning of the book, not the first chapter in the Table of Contents. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Experts

Now that I've reviewed all the various fantastic theories, I want to return to the one that isn't fantastic at all, but was, from the very beginning -- and by far -- the most likely. To understand why this theory got sidetracked in favor of all the others, regardless of how unlikely and indeed wacky they might sound, we need to return to the fateful decision of the so-called "experts" who ruled John out as writer of the note. And this decision did indeed determine the entire history of the case. Whenever I've attempted to convince anyone with any influence or clout that John is the most likely suspect by far, I've been greeted with the same response: "but wasn't he ruled out by the experts?" End of conversation.

Indeed he was ruled out. And for some strange reason the expertise of these "experts" has never been questioned. As a matter of fact, in virtually all the literature on the Ramsey case, there is only one group whose expertise is consistently upheld as definitive and unchallengeable: this same group of "handwriting experts" who decided John Ramsey could not possibly have written the incriminating note.

Oh, excuse me. There is one exception. And it's quite revealing.

In The Death of Innocence, John Ramsey writes of "experts" hired by his attorneys "to analyze our handwriting samples. Our experts had impeccable law enforcement reputations. They went through the same materials the police did. In the end, they totally eliminated me as a potential writer of the ransom note, and Patsy came out with a low similarity score, indicating little likelihood of having written it." (p. 140.) In short order, four more "experts," hired by the Boulder District Attorney, rubber stamped the decision of the Ramsey "experts," agreeing that John must be "ruled out."

Fast forward to the case of Wolf vs. Ramsey, March 2003, judge Julie Carnes presiding. Chris Wolf, whom the Ramseys once listed as a potential suspect, is suing them for libel. New York lawyer, Darnay Hoffman, is representing Wolf, giving him the opportunity to demonstrate that the note must have been written by Patsy, meaning the murder was an inside job. To make his case, he presents the testimony of his own lineup of "experts," all convinced Patsy and only Patsy could have written it.

From Carnes's summation
Defendants argue that the opinions of plaintiffs' expert should not be admitted because the field of forensic document examination is not sufficiently reliable. In their Brief in Support of the Motion in Limine, defendants argue that the "science" of handwriting analysis does not meet the reliability standards of Rule 702: as the theoretical bases underlying this science have never been tested; error rates are neither known nor measured; and the field lacks both controlling standards and meaningful peer review. (Br. In Supp. Of Mot. In Limine 68 at 2.) (Carnes 2003:49) (my emphasis).
Fascinating! The only principals ever to have questioned the expertise of the handwriting "experts," are John and Patsy Ramsey themselves. So. Regardless of their "impeccable law enforcement reputations," all handwriting "experts," including those who ruled John out, must be regarded as "not sufficiently reliable" since their "field lacks both controlling standards and meaningful peer review."

I agree. From the JonBenet Ramsey Case Encyclopedia:
Courts Have Split on Admissibility of Handwriting Evidence. "Since the Daubert and Kumho Tire decisions, courts have been split on the admissibility of expert testimony of a forensic document examiner. Some courts have found the testimony to be reliable and fully admissible. Some courts have determined that the forensic document examiner's testimony was not sufficiently reliable and therefore fully excluded their testimony. However, other courts have taken a middle position, permitting the forensic document examiner to testify as to particular similarities and dissimilarities between the documents, but excluding the ultimate opinion on authorship." (US v. Thornton) (My emphasis.)
In other words, if this case ever comes to trial, the opinions of the various "experts" with respect to either John or Patsy (or anyone else for that matter) may very well be inadmissible, with the examiners allowed to testify only "as to particular similarities and dissimilarities."

How ironic, that the one finding that's convinced so many John must be ruled out, would very likely not be admissible in a court of law. Nor should it.

Nevertheless, this one finding by the so-called "experts" remains to this day the insuperable barrier to prosecution of the most likely suspect by far: John Ramsey.


  1. Thank you. Excellent analysis of the "experts".

  2. Remember though, we haven't seen all of John's exemplars and the experts have. Maybe that's why they ruled him out. Regardless, as you say, it is an inexact science.

    Question though. You keep saying how all the facts point to JR. Which facts are these exactly? I am leaning to him as the killer more now than I ever have (mostly due to some of your theories) but I am really having a hard time believing he killed her to shut her up. There is no evidence that he sexually molested her. If he did, I am sure a firm threat not to tell would have sufficed.

    I am about half way through the Kolar book and although it is an excellent read, there really isn't much new information (so far anyway). His "aha moment" (Patsy knowing the ending of the ransom note even though she said she only read the first few lines) is way over-rated as I believe she was near it or JR was telling her what it said as she talked to the 911 dispatcher.

    Keep your stuff coming. I now read information from the perspective that JR is the killer. You almost have me convinced. What is your opinions on the Paughs? Why haven't they spilled the beans or leaked something? Surely if Patsy knew, she would have told her sisters. JR didn't exactly waste anytime finding someone new after Patsy died...


    1. "Remember though, we haven't seen all of John's exemplars and the experts have. Maybe that's why they ruled him out."

      They could have seen a thousand examples of John's writing, and all could be totally different -- but if there is even one resembling the writing on the note, then all the others don't really matter, do they?

      "Regardless, as you say, it is an inexact science."

      Actually, it's not a science at all. And if John's lawyer wants to contest that, the prosecutor could turn to the Ramsey's own argument in the Wolf case (see above), dismissing such methods as lacking "both controlling standards and meaningful peer review."

      As for the facts pointing to John's guilt, I'm not referring to all the usual "evidence" that's continually being debated, such as the fiber evidence, or the profiling "evidence," but hard facts such as those presented in my first two blog posts. Those facts, supplemented by the clear evidence that John was lying about breaking the basement window at an earlier date, point very clearly to John and no one else.

      I don't see any reason to suspect the Paughs know anything at all, just as I see no reason to suspect that their daughter Patsy, ever knew or even suspected anything of real significance.

  3. Well if your theory is correct then surely Patsy knew that the window wasn't broken the previous summer, hence John is spinning one big lie about the whole thing.


    1. Yeah, there's no question Patsy knew his story was a fake. So did Burke, by the way. But he'd told Fleet White about it even before the body was found, so he had no choice but to stick with it. Otherwise he'd have been caught in a suspicious lie and his staging would have been obvious.

      So if you're wondering why John immediately lawyered up and then refused to allow either Patsy or Burke to testify for months, this could well be a big part of your answer. Both Patsy and Burke had to be persuaded to be on the same page as John, or at the very least, not to blow the whistle on him. Burke was just a confused and self-absorbed kid who probably could care less about the details of the case. Patsy was also confused, but more important, extremely vulnerable. John had been "ruled out" so in her eyes he was innocent. But she had NOT, and was therefore totally dependent on John and his lawyers. So she had no choice but to go along.

  4. re, ransom note. i thought john was ruled out by chet ubowski, who works for the CBI.

    1. Yes, Ubowski was one of the "experts" who agreed to rule John out. Two were hired by the Ramseys, the others, including Ubowski, were presumably "independent." But clearly the process was tainted by the involvement of "experts" hired by the chief suspect, something that should never have been allowed.

  5. the word hence was used in the ransom note, and it was also written in a christmas card that patsy sent to someone. many believe this is proof she wrote that note.

    1. The Christmas message was jointly written by both Patsy and John. Patsy's style was always informal, John's formal. "And hence" is a formal expression, more in keeping with his style than hers. This is an excellent example of how perception of the case was determined by people's preconceptions rather than a dispassionate evaluation of the evidence.

  6. Hi Doc,
    Are you familiar with Michelle Dresbold? She is a well-respected handwriting analyst with impeccable credentials.While she was never hired to work the case (as far as I know), she too has concluded that Patsy penned the RN.
    I'm with you in the belief that John is the more likely author -- your posted exemplars convinced me -- but I'm interested in your thoughts on how someone like her could get it wrong. From what little I know of her, she certainly strikes me as someone who would be unafraid to disagree with the status quo.

    1. Dresbold relied heavily on the comparisons made by Cina Wong and was in fact sued by Wong for violation of copyright. I haven't read Dresbold's book, but if her findings are based on Wong's comparisons then I don't think much of them. See my response to Wong's "analysis" here and in the following post:

      It's important to remember that all these "well-respected" handwriting professionals almost always deal with forgeries, not documents such as the Ramsey ransom note, where the challenge is to determine not whether handwriting was forged, but to identify who actually penned a note written in a manner deliberately intended to hide that person's identity. In such cases, similarities could be purely accidental and differences are to be expected, so it's very easy to be misled.

      The ONLY scientifically valid method for comparison in such a case would be a double blind study of samples drawn from the writings of several different individuals, all using the same style of penmanship (in this case manuscript, as opposed to cursive). If Dresbold or anyone else had been able to single Patsy out under such circumstances, that would be meaningful. But when the investigator knows ahead of time whose exemplars he is comparing, then the opportunity for bias is too great and the results must be taken with a huge grain of salt.