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).

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Reasonable Doubt - Part 4

Based on the arguments presented in the previous three posts, I believe it possible to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that no intruder was present in the Ramsey home that night. There was no sign an intruder had been in the house. The DNA "evidence" is easily dismissed as the result of indirect transfer and might not even be admissible. There was no sign of a forced breakin. There was no reason for an intruder to do all that was done. And finally, the clinching evidence, John attempted to stage a breakin at the basement window and then lied about it since he hadn't had an opportunity to complete his staging. Thus, on the basis of the preponderance of evidence, and beyond reasonable doubt, the crime was an inside job. And just as clearly, based on his many lies and misdirections, John Ramsey was involved. He is clearly guilty. But of what?

Detective Steve Thomas became convinced that Patsy Ramsey "accidentally" struck her daughter in a fit of rage over bedwetting, and attempted to cover up her crime by staging both a sexual attack and a kidnapping, complete with phoney "ransom note." In some form or other, with a whole slew of variants, this has become the prevailing view among those convinced "the Ramseys" are guilty. In Thomas's version, Patsy is responsible for both the murder and the staging, including the staging of a sexual attack, with John getting involved only later, when he figures out what is going on and goes along with the coverup, presumably to preserve his family's privileged lifestyle. In other versions, John and Patsy are equal participants in the coverup, with Patsy writing the patently phoney "ransom" note. According to James Kolar, the one most likely to have killed JonBenet was her brother, with both parents covering for him, and, of course, Patsy writing the note.

I've demonstrated on this blog that none of these theories are consistent with the facts of the case, and in fact lead to absurdities. From the viewpoint of the prosecution, however, they've become so popular, even among experienced law enforcement personnel, with so many convinced that Patsy constructed the "garotte" (her fibers were found entwined in the cord), and must have penned the "ransom" note, as so many "experts" have asserted, that they would be difficult to completely refute. On this basis, the defense would be in a position to invoke reasonable doubt regarding John's direct involvement in either the sexual assault or murder. And since the statute of limitations on accessory after the fact has run out, he could go free.

Interestingly enough, however, there are very good reasons to assume no lawyer in his right mind would propose such a defense. Any attempt along such lines would open itself to a response going more or less as follows:
Are you claiming it's possible that Patsy Ramsey or her son Burke could have committed this crime, with your client only covering up after the fact? Are you saying, therefore, that your client knows more about this case than he's previously claimed? Are you saying he can tell us who killed his daughter? Are you saying he knows how this was done and by whom, and decided to cover it up by staging a breakin rather than report it? Are you saying he's been lying about this case for years while pretending to be an innocent victim? And are you saying he's perjured himself by denying he knew anything whatsoever about this crime?
Any such effort to invoke reasonable doubt on such a basis would backfire, as clearly from John's point of view there could be no doubt. If he was involved in the coverup he would know what happened. So reasonable doubt would no longer be the issue. To save himself he would be forced to testify that either his wife or son or both were the ones who assaulted and murdered his daughter. Even assuming that were true, it's unlikely he'd be willing to do this, as it would totally undermine his credibility and very likely backfire. If he were willing to take the stand, however, and finally, after all this time, offer an explanation of what actually happened, I, along with many others, would most certainly be all ears. If he could make a convincing case, he might even get off, as far as assault and murder are concerned, and as I mentioned, accessory after the fact has expired. But he would probably have to face perjury charges for denying any knowledge of what happened, as it can be assumed he'd have sworn to that under oath during both the indictment proceedings and the early stages of the trial.

Of course the above scenario is extremely hypothetical. I really don't see him agreeing to such a drastic defense as it would totally destroy the fortress he has built around himself all these years. His lawyers would almost certainly insist to the bitter end that there is no way the prosecution could prove beyond reasonable doubt that an intruder could not have been present, regardless of all evidence to the contrary.

In addition to the intruder issue, the prosecution should be especially wary regarding two potentially powerful reasonable doubt arguments: if John were guilty and had staged a phoney kidnapping, then why would he have told his wife to call 911 so early, and with the body still in the house, thus spoiling his own staging effort? if John had written the ransom note, why would so many experts have ruled him out? and if Patsy wrote it, what motive would she have had to protect the killer of her daughter?

When arguing probable cause, all the prosecution needed was good reason to believe there was no intruder, plus the fact that John was by far more likely than either Patsy or Burke to have been responsible for the sexual assault and, consequently, the murder. However, to satisfy reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, there would apparently be no way to avoid the difficulty posed by these two arguments. As I see it, however, they need not pose an insuperable obstacle, for reasons already provided here. See for example this post, where an alternative version of the phone call is presented, in which Patsy claims it was her idea, not John's, telling us their version of what happened is unreliable. Or this post, in which I argue that Patsy was most likely manipulated by John into lying on at least two matters, so he wouldn't "look bad." Or this one, where I summarize the case as a whole, demonstrating that John's involvement in the coverup at the basement window, coupled with the logic behind the 911 call, tells us that Patsy must be innocent.

See also my post on The Experts, where I call attention to an argument presented by the Ramseys themselves, alleging that "the theoretical bases underlying [the 'science' of handwriting evaluation] have never been tested; error rates are neither known nor measured; and the field lacks both controlling standards and meaningful peer review." Additionally, the prosecution would need to call to the stand experts of its own, to make the point that any decision to rule out a leading suspect, simply because his writing doesn't appear to match that of a patently deceptive document, is both unscientific and irresponsible. And, of course, they should present direct comparisons between John's writing on the legal document we've all seen and exemplars from the note.

Finally, I must invoke a legal principal as important, in my view, as reasonable doubt: preponderance of evidence, which in this case could also be understood as overwhelming evidence. While strictly speaking not as binding as proof beyond reasonable doubt, the preponderance of evidence, especially if the evidence is clear and compelling, and also as in this case overwhelming, can, in practical terms, make a significant difference in any court proceeding. Take, for example, the Jerry Sandusky case, where reasonable doubt could have been successfully argued if only one or two young men had accused him of prior abuse. According to the defense, they might well have testified against Sandusky with an eye to a future lawsuit against Penn State, a suit which could prove highly lucrative to both their lawyers and themselves; thus there was no way to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they weren't lying.

However, it wasn't only one or two, but several young men who came forward. Strictly speaking the rules of reasonable doubt could have been applied in all these instances, but the preponderance of evidence was so overwhelming that reasonable doubt must have seemed beside the point and he was quickly convicted. So it could be with the Ramsey case. If argued competently, by an intelligent and persistent prosecutor, then any shreds of lingering doubt on the part of any of the jurors might well seem irrelevant in the face of an overwhelming preponderance of evidence pointing directly to John Ramsey and no one else.


  1. I'm sorry, but I don't follow this wrt "John's POV". The jury might have a doubt as to JR doing it, if testimony is presented at trail that PR did it. The doubt would be reasonable on the face of it, but at any rate, no juror imagines his doubts to be unreasonable.

    Yes, JR would have to admit to lying previously, and perhaps would have to do time for perjury. That's infinitely preferable to doing time for murder.

    I'm also confused about the point you're making about JR's credibility.

    1. I guess I didn't make my meaning clear enough. Let me try again.

      Let's assume John's lawyers would want to invoke reasonable doubt on the basis of the possibility that Patsy (or Burke) could have killed JonBenet and not John. But if either of them is the murderer, one would assume John would be aware of it, and would have participated in the coverup. And if John knows about it, then it's no longer a matter of reasonable doubt, it's a matter of calling John to the stand and asking him what he knows.

      John would then be forced to testify against Patsy or Burke, which could easily backfire because the jury might well see his testimony as self-serving. It would also shred any hope of establishing reasonable doubt based on the intruder theory, since if Patsy did it there obviously wasn't any intruder. So it wouldn't be simply a matter of accepting a perjury charge, it would considerably strengthen the murder case against him by forcing him to admit he lied and that there was no intruder.

      That's a very high price to pay for that sort of "reasonable doubt." It seems to me their best bet would be to stick to the intruder theory, regardless of how lame it is.

      The point I'm making about John's credibility is that once he admits he knows what happened, he admits that he's been lying through his teeth for years, and his lies have hurt a great many people. So why would the jury believe him when he claims Patsy or Burke did it? It could easily be another lie. So he'd have to prove it, which would turn reasonable doubt on its head, because the burden of proof is usually on the prosecution.

      Seems to me that if his lawyers were to decide the intruder theory might not work for them, they might urge John to plea bargain with the prosecution, offering to tell what he knows in return for immunity or a lighter sentence. If in fact Patsy or Burke killed JonBenet, that would be his chance to reveal that information and hope the authorities would believe him. But that would be an act of sheer desperation, as it would totally destroy him in the eye of his family, the public, everyone he's ever known and cared about, including his new wife. My guess is that he would never agree to do that, even if he was "only" an accessory to someone else's crime.

      And by the way, I don't believe for a minute that he was only an accessory. I'm sure he did it all. So if he tried to cop a plea it would just be another pack of lies.