Two Days in the Death of JonBenét

A journal of the media madness sparked by the JonBenét grand jury.

Later in the evening, Larry King weighs in on JonBenét, as does CNN's Burden of Proof program and the Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, whose guests include New York-based lawyer/gadfly Darnay Hoffman and, mmm-hmm, Peter Boyles. The various NBC cable properties keep the redundancies coming, too, despite the dearth of any new information to report. Seldom has so much been said about so little.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13

6:23 a.m.: Flop -- here come the Post and the News again. This time, the Post deigns to acknowledge the JonBenét carnival up front, but the headline of its page-one story, "Media's Vigil Continues in JonBenét Jury Probe," makes it sound as if the press were practicing a new religion -- which might not be far off. The piece runs below the fold, beneath not one, but two photos of basketballer Wilt Chamberlain, who died the previous day. But the Rocky exhibits no such shyness, relegating Wilt the Stilt to the lower left-hand corner under a big photo of a gaggle of camera operators outside the Justice Center. Over it are the words "Anxious Wait for JonBenét Grand Jury's Decision." God, the suspense is incredible!

Over on Channel 9, reporter Lori Hirosa reports that several TV crew members are sleeping in their vans -- scoopage! But very much awake is the forty-something Pennsylvania mother who uses the pseudonym Mrs. Brady on her nationally recognized Ramsey-centric Web page, at www.joshua-7.com/mrsbrady. Previously profiled in these pages ("The Mom Squad," September 10, 1998), Mrs. Brady has an update online by 6:30 a.m. complete with a staggeringly lengthy roundup of JonBenét stuff from Tuesday introduced by the comment, "Tick, tick, tick...hurry up and wait. Maybe today?"

8:26 a.m.: The media folks in Boulder have grown so bored that they're beginning to interview each other. On KOA, Michael Tracey, the credibility-challenged University of Colorado journalism prof behind the "documentary" The Case of JonBenét: The Media Versus the Ramseys, is followed to the microphone by Burden of Proof's Greta Van Susteren and Carol McKinley, who managed to parlay her time working the Ramsey beat for KOA into an on-camera gig for Fox News; McKinley says authorities are threatening to charge reporters who pester grand jurors or venture into the so-called media-free zone. The big names joining Boyles on KHOW this morning are Richard Gooding, credited with breaking the story about Newt Gingrich's mistress, and ABC's Jeffrey Toobin, who got his first significant face time during the O.J. Simpson trial. Toobin says that Boyles asked him the day before if anyone would shed a tear were a bomb to destroy the Justice Center media encampment. This "haunting question," he goes on, had a lot to do with him not sleeping well the previous night.

3:30-4:59 p.m.: Hours of time-wasting end when the grand jurors depart and Boulder district attorney reps hint that some kind of statement will be coming shortly. Thirty minutes later, Channel 7 block of wood Steve Saunders asks Craig Silverman, once a Denver prosecutor, to read the tea leaves. Silverman says that the grand jurors "didn't look like a happy group" when they exited (he bases this opinion on their refusal to make eye contact with him) and hints that evidence was removed from the Justice Center and a paper shredder was brought inside. Saunders takes all this in before warning, "We don't want to make too much of what we don't know right now." There's some good advice.

Minutes later, the media begins reporting that Alex Hunter will be making "an announcement of significance" at 5 p.m. On KHOW, host Rivers promises that Peter Boyles will be on the air immediately after Hunter's remarks -- as if anyone could stop him. Already in position on Fox News is Darnay Hoffman, who notes, quite accurately, that most Boulderites haven't been as fixated on the case as have people elsewhere in the country. "Boulder, I think, is sick of this," he says. He also believes that the grand jurors looked happy, not sad. Guess he and Silverman will have to duke it out over that.

5 p.m.: Hunter walks toward the press throng with Channel 4 reporter Brian Maass alongside him babbling banalities into a cell phone: "He's wearing a gray, pin-striped suit," Maass says, as if no one can see Hunter but him. The district attorney eventually ditches Maass at the speaker's platform and drops the bombshell that's not really a bombshell: The grand jury won't be coming back, and no one will be indicted. Gasp.

5:09-10:30 p.m.: The analysis frenzy begins. CNN's Van Susteren isn't surprised. Fox News's McKinley quotes Henry Lee, a forensic expert with O.J. credentials whom Hunter consulted, as saying, "They're beating a dead horse" and claims that the case at this point "is like the sound of one hand clapping." The Post's Chuck Green and attorney Pozner take opposite sides on MSNBC, where John Gibson declares that the extravaganza is ending "with a whimper, not a bang" -- a phrase used moments later on Channel 4 by Mimi Wesson, a CU law professor. On Channel 7, expert Silverman offers, "What we have here is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing," while Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant gives things a more positive spin: "Everyone involved will continue to try and make this a prosecutable case in court." Then Boyles, who's introduced as a guy whose radio program is "all JonBenét all the time," turns up on Fox News; "I'm sad," he says sadly. "It may be a sad day for American justice." Not to mention how sad it is for people who've grown accustomed to being on national cable shows every night.

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