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.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reasonable Doubt - Part 2

(. . . continued from previous post.)

To foster reasonable doubt, the defense can be expected to dredge up anything it can find that can't easily be accounted for, according to the age-old principle known as "throw the spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks." We can get a pretty good idea of what to expect from my blog post That Elusive Intruder, in which the history of various dubious bits and pieces of "intruder evidence" is chronicled. Everything on that list, along with just about all the other "intruder evidence," was accounted for long ago, but that won't prevent the Ramsey defense team from tossing each and every item into the ring all over again. The basic idea: if even one single item on the list can't be fully accounted for, that could trigger reasonable doubt, and if reasonable doubt can be implanted in the head of even one member of the jury, then our client is home free.

Unfortunately for team Ramsey, this strategy has already been used any number of times, in any number of trials. So any good prosecutor will be fully prepared to deal with it. Reasonable doubt is not the same as any doubt at all. Fibers found at the crime scene that can't be sourced to anyone living in the house might produce some doubt, but at the same time it is unreasonable to assume that the fibers couldn't have a perfectly innocent source. Many guests and also many workmen had recently been present in the house and it's unreasonable to expect the investigators to track down every single garment worn by every single visitor, and it is thus unreasonable to insist that such fibers be treated as meaningful evidence.

Abrasions found on the victim's back might appear to be consistent with a stun gun attack, and since the Ramseys didn't own a stun gun this might produce some doubts in a juror's mind. However, it is unreasonable to assume a stun gun was used simply because certain marks are consistent with such a weapon, as there is no way to tell whether they could have been produced by some other means. So, just as a defense attorney might argue for reasonable doubt regarding his client's innocence, a prosecutor can argue it is unreasonable to insist on the viability of any piece of so-called "evidence" simply because the defense decides to offer it as such.

In the Ramsey case, the most significant piece of "intruder evidence" is undoubtedly the fragments of DNA found mixed with JonBenet's blood, along with the two instances of matching "touch" DNA found on two separate sides of her longjohns. It was this evidence that prompted DA Mary Lacy to officially "exonerate" the Ramseys. Her decision went well beyond the realm of reasonable doubt, of course, and was certainly a major setback as far as any possible future prosecution is concerned. It was also an outrageous overstepping of her authority, as she had no right to exonerate anyone -- nor did she have the expertise necessary to properly evaluate such highly technical evidence.

As I argued in my blog post on the Touch DNA,
it's essential to keep in mind all the many different ways DNA can be transferred and to remind ourselves that a DNA match between a  human and an object does not "necessarily prove they were actually in direct contact at all" (see quotation in previous post). What made me suspicious of this so-called "evidence" from the start was how incredibly sparse it was. If an intruder had actually attacked JonBenet with bare hands, then his DNA would be all over her body and her clothing, not to mention the "garotte" he used to strangle her. The complex, sophisticated methods used to produce miniscule traces of blood and "touch" DNA should not have been necessary. The DNA should have been evident from the start, using conventional methods. And if the attacker used gloves, then there would have been no DNA at all, certainly no touch DNA.
My observations are consistent with the views of professionals in this field, as evidenced by the long excerpt from the essay "Evaluating Forensic DNA Evidence:Essential Elements of a Competent Defense Review" quoted in my blog post The Defense. In sum, the unsourced DNA isn't really much different from the unsourced fibers cited above, as it is unreasonable to expect the authorities to track down every possible source when the victim had been in both direct and indirect contact with so many different people over the last few days and weeks. When combined with the many reasons noted above for doubting the existence of an intruder, it seems clear the DNA evidence is little more than yet another red herring tossed into the mix as part of a strategy of misdirection. It is indeed reasonable to assume that all of us carry a considerable amount of "touch" DNA on our bodies and our clothing at all times, due to either direct or indirect contact, and that much of it would probably be equally difficult to source.

At this point, as far as I'm concerned, the line between reasonable and unreasonable doubt has become very thin indeed. But there is one more very significant piece of evidence for us to consider.

(to be continued . . . )


  1. I'm so glad I ran across your blog. After reading all of your posts, it seems that your ideas are pretty much irrefutable. I have been lurking for years on a variety of sites trying to glean information that makes sense of this crime. I've wracked my brain to come up with a scenario that makes sense. And yours fits the bill.

    Here's an idea I'd like to add: I have seen some questions about how, before his kidnapping plan was ruined, John was going to set up a phone call from the "kidnappers". Really, there didn't necessarily need to be a phone call. His main objective was to get Jon Benet's body out of the house. He could have accomplished this with the excuse of going to the bank to get the ransom money. If Patsy and Burke were out of the house, he could have snuck Jon Benet's body out and stashed it before he headed to the bank. After that, the kidnappers would fail to call, ostensibly because they had killed her. And eventually her ravaged body would be found.

    I also have a question: John must have been absolutely crazed when he realized his daughter was actually dead. I don't care how long he had been abusing her, her death must have been a huge blow. But yet he was able to formulate and carry out a pretty sneaky plan. It had obvious flaws, but who wouldn't make some mistakes under those circumstances. Is there any documentation showing previous nefarious behavior? You mention that he had an affair in the past. It just seems like he is such an expert at hiding and deflecting evidence away from himself. He must have had plenty of practice.

    Ok, I'm going back to lurking now and pondering more of your ideas.

  2. Thanks Ginny. I'm pleased to learn you find my arguments convincing.

    "Really, there didn't necessarily need to be a phone call. His main objective was to get Jon Benet's body out of the house. He could have accomplished this with the excuse of going to the bank to get the ransom money. If Patsy and Burke were out of the house, he could have snuck Jon Benet's body out and stashed it before he headed to the bank."

    Yes, his plan could have been that simple. But it would have been more risky, because someone might have spotted his car near the place where the body would later be found. By waiting until after the "kidnappers" called, he could have explained his presence at that place by claiming he went there to deliver the ransom and pick up his daughter.

    As far as previous devious behavior is concerned, it's important to remember that we know very little about John's activities when away from home. He is reported to have spent a good portion of his time abroad, mostly in Holland, which is known as an "anything goes" type of country. Also as I recall, he was sometimes referred to as "the ice man" by employees. John has a reputation for being a very quiet "introvert" who often kept to himself, which makes it hard to get a handle on him. Patsy, on the other hand, was an extrovert with a large circle of friends and many public activities.

    1. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. Just sayin.


  3. You keep saying that it's unreasonable to make too much of certain evidence - unsourced fibers, touch dna. But I think this is exactly what the jury would do - wonder about the possibility of an intruder leaving behind the fibers and the dna.

    If may be unreasonable (let's just admit, impossible) to track down every artifact but that doesn't really mean the artifacts could not have been left by the boogey-man intruder. My guess is that unsourced fibers, along with dna mixed with her blood are a slam dunk for the defense.

    No one in the family has any known history of sex abuse, and Malinda will certainly be testifying that "daddy" never did anything bad to her. The case begins with reasonable doubt that these are the kind of people who would do this, and there is nothing the prosecution can introduce, except statistics, to show otherwise.

    You comments on "Holland as an anything goes" country are both true, and an attempt to make the reader a little suspicious of JR. I'm sure the prosecution would try to work that in somehow. I happen to have relatives in Thailand, also an "anything goes" country. I've traveled there several times, yet I'm not a closet pedophile. Actually most countries are "anything goes" if you know where the red light districts are, and have the money and desire for seamy activities.

    As much as I agree with the overall theory you've presented, I think you are wildly optimistic about the chances for a conviction.

    With reference to the prior post on reasonable doubt - what kind of locks are on the doors? What I'm getting at is that there is a type which has a button on the back, which you turn to lock. If left unlocked, the intruder could have come in, and could have locked it behind himself on the way out, without having a key. When JR checked the doors (let's pretend he actually checked them) he would have found them locked, not realizing one had been left unlocked. Not that I think this is likely, I'm just throwing spaghetti.

    It's also strange the housekeeper's husband had 3 rolls of black duct tape and lengths of white cord, one length tied to a stick, similar to what was used in the crime. My understanding is that these items are not a match (as in microscopic analysis, chemical composition, from the same production run, etc.) but they are very similar. Who's to say the cord and tape were not the last of another production run? The housekeeper had a key, therefore the husband had access to a key. As you say, they will throw the spaghetti at the wall....

    1. I feel sure the prosecutors could find many precedents where this type of unsourced fiber and/or DNA defense was attempted -- and failed. This type of "evidence" (aka pseudo-evidence) is sure to be found in literally every case where an in-house crime has been committed. For this reason it might even be possible for the prosecution to convince the judge to disallow it. But even if it's allowed, a good prosecutor should be able to convince an intelligent jury that "intruder evidence" of this sort is worthless. Unsourced fibers and "touch DNA" could easily be found in just about any home, and that's especially true today, where high tech methods make it possible to retrieve even the most minute, microscopic traces.

      It's the responsibility of a good prosecutor to explain such things to a jury, but ultimately each jurist will need to decide for himself regarding reasonable doubt, and this would not be a sure thing, granted. But there is more evidence to come, so be patient.

      My reference to Holland doesn't mean I would allege that John did anything immoral there. All it means is that we simply don't know all that much about his history and his actions, so when the defense insists that there is nothing in John's background to suggest he'd be capable of molestation and murder, the prosecution can remind the jury that we don't know that much about his background, certainly not enough to be sure he's led a totally "clean" life. There are many precedents where "upstanding citizens" with ostensibly squeaky clean lives did some pretty horrible things and the prosecution should certainly make that point.

      As far as the locks are concerned, I doubt that a multi-millionaire's mansion would be protected by that sort of easily jimmied lock. And as John himself reported, all the relevant doors were locked. He says he checked that before going to bed and also in the morning.

      The questions raised by the housekeeper and her husband are exactly the sort of questions that drove investigators nuts for years. If you look at the history of this case, you'll find a great many likely "suspects," complete with motives, strange behavior, access to items that could have a relevance to the case, etc.

      A good prosecutor would not allow himself to get bogged down in this morass, as refuting each and every one of these "possibilities" would bore the jury to tears and only wind up feeding the fuel of reasonable doubt. Concentrating on the lack of meaningful intruder evidence, and the fact that no intruder scenario anyone has ever devised makes any sense at all, would be the best bet for the prosecution.

      It would be essential for the prosecutor to continually remind the jury that all the various red herrings produced by the defense are standard fare in just about every criminal proceeding. There is nothing about this case that makes things any different.

    2. I'd like to add that as far as my being "wildly optimistic" is concerned, my principal goal is to see John put on trial. And that's a matter of probable cause, NOT reasonable doubt.