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Thursday, October 18, 2012

The "Experts" See Patsy - Part 8: Cherokee

On to Cherokee's "Handwriting Analysis," which begins with post no. 10 of his Forums for Justice thread. [Added on 1-23-1017: the threads containing Cherokee's analysis seem to have vanished. However, smaller versions of some of his/her comparisons can still be found here:] He immediately excludes Burke, as "The handwriting, vocabulary and syntax of the Ransom Note are those of an adult." I agree. He decides, therefore, to focus on "the two adults who were there at the time, John and Patsy Ramsey." Here too I agree, since imo there is no evidence of an intruder that's ever stood up to close examination, nor was there any reason for any intruder to both leave a hand printed ransom note and fail to remove his victim from the house. What makes his approach superior to all the others, in my opinion, is his willingness to consider John as well as Patsy, rather than uncritically accept the verdict of the "experts" who ruled him out.

Unfortunately, in all these years only one brief example of John's hand has emerged, the court document I've already examined in some detail on this blog:
  (The other document presented here in an earlier post is questionable, and very possibly not written by John, though at this point I'm not completely sure.)

This document has been available on the Internet for years, with no knowledgeable person ever attempting to expose it as anything other than a genuine example of John's hand. It was shown in my "presence," via  Internet chat, to Patsy's sister Pam, who immediately identified it as "John's chicken scratch." Nevertheless, long time Ramsey case investigator and Ramsey family supporter "Jameson," who claims to have genuine examples of John's writing in her possession, has insisted this looks nothing like any of the examples she's seen, which for her also bear no resemblance to the ransom note whatsoever. Given Aunt Pam's response, plus the lack of any authoritative denial, I think it nevertheless reasonable to accept this as the "real thing," though its apparent difference from other exemplars by John raises some very intriguing questions. Unfortunately, Jameson has consistently refused to share any of the exemplars in her possession.

If we agree there was no intruder (and admittedly this is still an open question for many), then the task of identifying who penned the "ransom" note is greatly simplified. It was either John or Patsy. Unlike Darnay Hoffman's "experts," Cherokee sees the necessity of considering both. Nor is he content, as they are, with the simple-minded cherry picking of similarities or "matches," but takes a far more sophisticated, truly analytical approach, based on the identification of certain distinctive features in the writing style of both suspects. In Patsy's case this doesn't seem all that difficult, as Cherokee has access to the various examples of Patsy's hand leaked over the years to tabloids such as the National Enquirer and Globe. (This gives him an advantage over Hoffman's "experts," whose efforts came too early to gain access to this bonanza.) In John's case, however, the limitation to only a single brief document represents a serious drawback, especially when it's necessary to determine what is characteristic for him and what is not.

Cherokee begins by concentrating on slant, accurately observing that John's exemplar reveals a distinctive back slant. Interestingly, Cherokee attributes his use of back slant to his personality, failing to consider the very real possibility that this document was written with the left hand. As is well known, left handed writers have a natural inclination to write with back slant, though many avoid this by tilting the paper. Since John has described himself as right handed, we are forced to consider the possibility that he is ambidextrous -- which might explain why this exemplar looks so different to Jameson than those in her possession. It could also help to explain why he was ruled out, since he could have contrived to offer the examiners right handed samples only.

We must now consider the first of several very useful graphics designed by Cherokee -- in this case to illustrate the role of slant in exemplars from John's document and the ransom note. Copyright limitations discourage me from reproducing any of these graphics here, but I'll provide direct links to each at the Forums for Justice website: First Cherokee Example.

Here we see Cherokee at both his best and worst. The graphic is ingeniously designed to make his point as clearly as possible and we can learn much from studying it. He uses slanting red lines to emphasize what he perceives as a fundamental difference in slant between John's writing and that of the note, isolating words used in both, such as "of," "not," "the," "this," etc. We see consistent use of back slant in all John's exemplars and forward slant in all but one exemplar from the note.

Before proceeding, it's important to emphasize that the "ransom" note is a document intended to deceive, so our ability to form conclusions on the basis of similarities or differences of any sort is strictly limited. Someone who normally writes in back hand might well have wanted to disguise this tendency, a possibility Cherokee apparently fails to take into account.

Judging from the two columns at the left of Cherokee's display, there is a clear cut difference between John's slant and that of the note. But is this really the case? Closer examination reveals many more instances of back slant in the note than he appears to have noticed. See, for example, the "ful" in "carefully," in the first line; the "W" in "We"; the "fact" in "faction"; the words "but" and "country" in the following sentence. Other, more isolated examples of backhand are the words "from," "in," "ade" from "adequate," "I" and "call" from "I will call you," etc. As the note proceeds, we see fewer such instances, which suggests the writer could have been struggling to control a natural tendency to back slant, which emerges at first and is then gradually suppressed -- though isolated instances of back slant can be seen scattered throughout. As is well known, the investigators suspected this document could have been written with the left hand, which is why they insisted on a left handed sample from Patsy.

Here we see only the first of many instances where Cherokee, in spite of his no doubt sincere efforts at objectivity, is cherry picking. Since he has convinced himself that John's writing is completely different from that of the note, he has a (probably unconscious) tendency to suppress or minimize evidence to the contrary.

The following graphic is especially interesting and useful: Second Cherokee Example. The first two columns reproduce the left hand columns in the previous example, but three more columns are added, drawn from three different documents penned by Patsy at the request of the authorities. His purpose is to contrast John's back slant with Patsy's forward slant, presumably consistent with what he perceives as the forward slant of the note. What strikes me, however, even at a first glance, is 1. how very different her overall writing style looks compared with that of the note, despite the similarities of slant we see based on his (cherry picked) examples; 2. how intriguingly similar the overall style of John's exemplars looks, at first glance, to the style of the note -- both relatively heavy handed, inconsistently formed, sloppy, and sometimes jammed together almost illegibly -- in contrast to the relatively light handed, consistently formed, neat and always clearly legible exemplars by Patsy. John's exemplars are, for some reason, presented as smaller than those of the note, but when compared side by side at the same size, some at least are strikingly similar. See, for example, two displays I prepared some years ago, in which exemplars from both documents are directly juxtaposed:

In my second comparison, John's exemplars are intermixed with exemplars from the note, leaving it to the viewer to sort them out. (If you can't sort them, then you can't claim the two documents look completely different now can you?) I'll admit I too was guilty of cherry picking, since I selected only those exemplars exhibiting strong resemblances. However, unlike Cherokee, I make no claim that my comparisons in themselves necessarily prove anything (other than the necessity of ruling John back in as a possible writer of the note).

The following segment of Cherokee's analysis is concerned with the use of the letter "n," as illustrated in his next graphic: Third Cherokee Example. He's noticed something distinctive about John's use of this letter: it appears in upper case only in the middle or end of words, never at the beginning. As demonstrated in the graphic, the ransom note is very different in this respect, with every instance of "n" written in lower case. And as demonstrated in the following graphic, this is true of Patsy's writing as well: Fourth Cherokee Example. Ok, fine, this is certainly a valid point. And in itself, it appears as though Cherokee has hit on a possibly significant stylistic difference. If John had written the note, is it likely he'd have paid attention to something so minor as that capital "N" in the middle of a word? Or would he have been careful enough to suppress that tendency? We can't be sure, but Cherokee has definitely discovered something meaningful.

How meaningful, however? And again I must point to yet another, though in this case more subtle, instance of cherry picking. By choosing the letter "n," Cherokee is able to make a telling point. But why that letter and no other? If we pay attention instead to John's use of the letter "f," for example, we a very different pattern:

Note how, at the beginning of the second line of his statement, the letter "F" in the word "oF" is written in upper case. Note also his use of upper case "P" in both instances of the word "Project." Note also the upper case "T" in all instances where it appears as either the initial or final letter of the word. I won't bother to reproduce it here, but if you check the note you'll see similar instances where capital letters appear in unexpected places, either at the end of a word, such as "iF," or the beginning of a word in mid sentence, as in "Follow." Other instances of similarly unusual placements of upper case letters are: "$118,000.00 From your accounT"; "IF we monitor"; "execution oF your daughter"; "remains For proper burial"; "you will be scanned For"; "we are Familiar with"; "iF you try to outsmart us"; "oF getting her back"; "only Fat cat". In addition, we see what looks like an upper case T in "That," as it appears in the second line of the note ("individuals That represent"), with an added line at the bottom, suggesting an attempt to make it appear lower case.

Since this usage is far more distinctive and unusual, in both John's exemplars and those from the note, than Patsy's consistently correct and predictable use of the lowercase "n," I would think it a far more significant distinctive marker. Nevertheless, Cherokee has chosen to ignore John's idiosyncratic usage of the upper case generally, except when, as with the letter "n," it fails to match that of the note. Not deliberately, I'm sure. Because unfortunately cherry picking isn't that easy to spot, especially when Patsy and only Patsy is in your sights.

There's a lot more to Cherokee's analysis, and as he claims, much more that he hasn't yet made public. But nothing I've seen has been immune to the distortions of cherry picking, so I see no point in continuing. I'll add that cherry picking is by no means easy to spot when you yourself are doing it, and I have no doubt that I too have been guilty of this investigative sin from time to time. [Added 5:30 PM: Judging from Patsy's right hand ransom note exemplars, we see a somewhat similar mix of lower and upper case in her writing as well, so maybe I was doing some cherry picking myself just now. The bottom line: it seems doubtful that either linguistic or handwriting analysis is going to tell us for sure who wrote the note. I feel sure I know John wrote it, but that's based on other evidence, and the logic of the case as a whole, not my or anyone else's handwriting analysis.]


  1. So you say above that this the only example of John's handwriting that has emerged over the years? Didn't John have to give samples of handwriting to the police at the time? Where are those samples? Was he evasive in not providing earlier samples? Hopefully one day investigators will take another look at his earlier writings.

    1. Yes, this is the only example of John's hand that has ever been made public (via a tabloid article I believe). All the focus in this case has been on Patsy. Ever since the decision to rule him out, John has been under the radar. I find it especially strange that no one has ever questioned that decision and that none of the tabloids ever made any effort to publish the exemplars he provided to the investigators. My guess is that they were discouraged by John's lawyers, who seem to have been far more willing to place Patsy in the public eye than John.

    2. Is it possible that John Ramsey may have considered framing his own wife if it came to a choice between himself and her? Afterall, some of the evidence points towards her. Wasn't the paintbrush used for the garrote tied to one of Patsy's paintbrushes that was found? And because John was ruled out as the writer of the note so soon, the investigators ended up focusing on Patsy.

    3. I don't think John would have wanted to frame Patsy, no. His strategy involved the staging of a breakin via the basement window by an intruder who then kidnapped JonBenet. Any attempt to implicate Patsy would have interfered with that staging, and also could have backfired on him as well, especially if she began to suspect what he was up to and decided to fight back.

      As I see it, he used Patsy's pad and paintbrush simply because he wanted to avoid anything that could be associated with him. He also used Burke's knife, apparently, for the same reason.

      Some people suspect that he tried to make the note look or sound like Patsy, but I see no evidence of that. I think he was constructing an intruder with a grudge against him and his family, so some of the references, such as "good southern common sense," come across more like sarcasm than anything else.

      Since many people have convinced themselves that the note resembles Patsy's hand, they are willing to consider the possibility that John could have deliberately made it look like her writing. I see no resemblance whatever to Patsy's hand, so that theory makes no sense to me.

      It IS true that the investigator focused on Patsy because John was ruled out and she wasn't, and it's also possible that John manipulated the "experts" into coming to that decision. But as I see it, John's motive would have been simply to cast suspicion away from him, rather than make it look like Patsy wrote the note. His strategy would have been to point away from an inside job and in the direction of some intruder with a grudge.

  2. He also needed Patsy, to provide his own self cover, by presenting a united front in the days and months to come. United in thinking it was an intruder, supporting his plan. He used her pain too, as he is was unable to feel it. Can't have them both behaving calmly. That wouldn't fit with distraught parents.

    He also likely got some digs in at Patsy using certain phrases in the note such as good common southern sense and grow a brain, having heard her say it or Nedra many times. She just didn't measure up for him. Nor did his first wife. HE needed attention, and she gave it to her children. She got sick and spent months away from him in treatment. How inconsiderate of her! He needs a beautiful wife to take care of things while he's growing his company and his reputation in the small community of Boulder.

    But back to the note, I am wondering how many ways he practiced perfecting it so at least his left slant wouldn't be visible. You can see it though in the first line after the salutation and Listen Carefully where he says "we are a..." That is a backslant. The note must be disguised by continuing on straight up and down. It can't be in his "chicken scratch" either, but he doesn't get too far away from it.