To the surprise of no one, the porn case against John Mark Karr, the best-known false confessor in the JonBenet Ramsey slaying, was tossed yesterday by a judge in Sonoma County, California. As noted in this week's Message column, the main evidence against him was in a computer that authorities there lost -- which gives an indication of how seriously they took the matter. Had he been convicted, he'd have probably gotten off with time served, but at least he would have been registered as a sex offender. Now, however, his record's cleaner than the consciences of those observers who pegged him as a fraud from the beginning.
The Rocky Mountain News, which had placed its chips on Karr's guilt, responded to the judge's action with a modest article (it's not even on its website's home page) by Charlie Brennan, the reporter who co-wrote the Rocky's lead Karr story on August 17, the day after the world media began to focus its lens on this super-creep. The lead sentence of that piece? "The decade-long search for JonBenet Ramsey's killer came to a startling end in Thailand on Wednesday."
On the 17th, the Rocky also published an editorial suggesting that l'affaire Karr justified the tabloid's widely snickered-at coverage of the Ramsey killing. The key section reads:
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The record will show that this newspaper attempted to explore all possible explanations for the murder, including the theory of outside intruder. As a result of those efforts, the paper was contemptuously dubbed "The Ramsey Mountain News" by one fierce media critic of the family. This fellow also targeted a News reporter for regular on-air ridicule.
So much for the certitude of amateur detectives.
But the aura of suspicion was by no means the product solely of outside amateurs. Just weeks after the murder, Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter held a press conference in which he seemed to hint at the parents' involvement. Police conceded they were suspects. Some of the evidence did suggest an inside job. And for that matter, the Rameys shocked many observers (ourselves included) by rejecting requests for interviews with police and prosecutors.
The Ramseys' behavior, their wealth, JonBenet's involvement in beauty pageants, the mysterious "ransom note" and a host of other details virtually guaranteed that the murder investigation would become a national sensation.
Now the garish saga may be entering its final phase.
For everyone's sake, we at least hope that's the case.
Well, there was no editorial today -- and the opinion-providers at the Rocky weren't alone in giving the latest Karr development a pass. At least the Denver Post assigned one of its own, Manny Gonzales, to pen a roundup about Karr developments. As for the Boulder Daily Camera and the Colorado Daily, their websites feature variations on the same Associated Press offering. (The Camera's version is here; the Daily's is here.) But none of these publications ran anything about Karr in their online editorial sections.
That's especially startling in the case of the Boulder dailies. After all, Karr is in this country because Boulder district attorney Mary Lacy paid handsomely to fly him back here. This should be a local story of interest in Boulder, yet neither the Camera editorialists nor their Daily counterparts weighed in about it.
Doing so in the future would be a very good idea. Boulder readers, in particular, deserve to hear Lacy talk about Karr, now a free man walking on American soil thanks to her decisions. She didn't respond to questions from the Post, the Rocky or the A.P. for today's articles. If she continues to dodge the matter, the Camera and the Daily should take her to task, rather than giving her another pass. -- Michael Roberts