The Worst-Laid Plans

The natives--and even the ex-Californians--were getting restless. Four weeks after the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, the case was still the talk of the town, the state, the country--but there were so few new developments to talk about. Reporters kept rehashing the same old stories, chewing over the same old facts. Finally last Friday, the City of Boulder threw them a bone. After admitting "there have been no arrests in this case, there are no arrests pending and police have not named any suspects," Ramsey Case News Release No. 19 offered a variety of fun facts about the investigation:

"As of Jan. 24, Boulder police investigators have committed more than 3,000 hours of staff time to this case. The number of staff hours committed to this case is nearly the equivalent of one full-time police officer working for an entire year (which is exactly 2,080 hours per year).

"Boulder police have interviewed over 90 individuals during the course of the investigation, both in Colorado and out of state.

"The voicemail tip line...and the Boulder County Crime Stoppers program have collectively received over 1,100 telephone calls since the start of the case. Five percent of these calls have necessitated some form of follow-up by police.

"The Boulder County Crime Stoppers Program is coordinating a reward for up to $100,000 for information in the case. The money is being provided [by] the Ramsey family and others.

"Boulder Police have received over 500 letters from members of the public regarding this case. Police do not have an Internet site, so information is not being received through the Internet."

My, how fascinating. The media-distracting clip-and-save package might have been the work of Ramsey family public-relations consultant Pat Korten, were it not for the fact that Release No. 19 ended with an incorrect address for sending mail to the Ramsey family--an address retracted soon after by a follow-up release from the City of Boulder.

After Boulder police chief Tom Koby's weeks of stonewalling and refusing to "speculate," Release No. 19 seemed downright chatty, particularly in contrast with the short-and-not-too-sweet pronouncement of the day before. "The Boulder Police investigation into the death of JonBenet Ramsey continues," announced Ramsey News Release No. 18. "The investigation is moving forward according to plan."

And what plan is that, exactly? The plan that the Boulder police devised after Patsy Ramsey's 911 call about her kidnapped daughter came in? Or the plan created eight hours later, after police had spent the day letting family friends tromp around a house that should have been secured as a crime scene from the get-go? (At the very least, a little girl was missing and an alleged ransom note had been found. But rather than search the house themselves, police had suggested that John Ramsey do so, which resulted in his finding JonBenet's body and polluting evidence in the process.) Or the plan devised after the Ramseys, who had declined to talk further with the cops, filmed their New Year's CNN infomercial, after which the Boulder police immediately dispatched a handful of investigators to Atlanta? Ramsey News Release No. 18 did not say, although it noted that "a formal interview with the Ramsey family has not been scheduled, and no timeline has been established for scheduling."

Well, excuse us all to hell for wondering.
Ramsey News Release No. 18 ended with another admonition for snoops: "In addition, a daily public inventory of what test results have been completed will not be provided. Any test results returned to Boulder Police will only be discussed in a court of law."

That, of course, presumes that tests are being conducted.
DNA tests can take six weeks, explained some of the numerous armchair experts whose interviews have filled the media gaps between Ramsey Releases.

But on Tuesday, Rocky Mountain News reporter Charlie Brennan blew a big hole in that theory. DNA testing has not begun on the semen allegedly found on or near JonBenet Ramsey, he reported. (Thanks to Brennan, the News has left the Denver Post in the dust--and Post executives aren't happy about eating it. When Post editor Dennis Britton told the New York Times that his paper was "crime-ing it down and Pollyanna-ing it up," he could never have dreamed that a story like the murder of JonBenet Ramsey was less than a month away.)

No DNA tests on semen.
For weeks, law enforcement experts and lawyers from both sides of the courtroom have privately wondered why initial testing hadn't narrowed the focus of the investigation. Because although complete DNA testing takes 42 days, some results are available much faster, even overnight. Tests, for example, that would determine whether the seminal fluid was left by what's called a "secretor" (75 percent of the population qualifies), in which case blood type could be determined from that fluid alone. Tests that could eliminate certain suspects.

Now they have their answer: The tests weren't done.
Why not?
The fluid found on or by JonBenet's body was a small sample, Brennan reported, so small that it would be difficult to test it and still comply with Colorado law. That law gives defendants the right to monitor DNA testing and even conduct their own, independent tests.

That, of course, presumes that there are defendants.
But in the Ramsey case, the police have named no suspects, much less defendants. So whose rights are being protected?

There are ways Boulder could comply with the statute and still protect whoever is ultimately charged in the case, those same legal and law enforcement experts point out. The DNA testing could be videotaped and narrated, suggests one criminal-defense attorney. It could be done at a lab whose integrity is beyond dispute (unlike, say, the photo-processing shop that did such a good job hanging on to the Ramsey crime-scene pictures), says one former prosecutor whose faith in the FBI is clearly stronger than a defense attorney's. It could be monitored by an independent party. Or all three. And although none of those tactics is guaranteed to stand up to a legal challenge, conducting the tests would certainly help move the investigation along. Particularly because any legal challenge would have to be made after a defendant is charged--a situation that, Ramsey News Release No. 19 be damned, is looking less likely every day.

As of late Tuesday, the City of Boulder had issued no Ramsey Case News Release No. 20, had offered no "public inventory" of what tests are--and are not--being done.

Presumably, "the investigation is moving forward according to plan."
Whose plan is that?


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