More Messages: The Invited

Shortly after revealing that John Mark Karr had been cleared of complicity in the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey, Boulder authorities announced that Boulder district attorney Mary Lacy (pictured) would star in a press conference at 10 a.m. today -- and restrictions placed upon attendance immediately raised the hackles of KHOW talk-show host Peter Boyles, a persistent Lacy critic. During this morning's show, he complained that only 21 press representatives would be allowed to ask questions of Lacy and her compadres, and he wasn't among them. "My invitation must have been lost in the mail," he groused amid comparisons of this gathering with a years-ago summit between John and Patsy Ramsey and handpicked members of the media he dubbed "the magnificent seven."

Unsurprisingly, Barb Halpin, the Boulder County public information officer, described things a bit differently when she was reached approximately forty minutes before showtime. She said her office used a media pool list assembled immediately after the Karr story broke under the supervision of the Associated Press' George Garties. Why? Lacy felt a more-the-merrier August 17 press conference outlined in this blog and the most recent Message column had devolved into a free-for-all. For that reason, she decided to stage its sequel in a relatively small room that would fit fewer participants. Something "huge would not create the environment she wanted," Halpin said. "She wanted to keep things manageable, so it would be productive." A seat had been reserved for a national and/or radio reporter, she added, but no one had claimed it at that point.

Had Boyles done so, he would have seen Lacy and associates Tom Bennett and Peter Maguire answer questions from the likes of Channel 7's John Ferrugia, who proved to be the toughest of the inquisitors. He repeatedly asked if e-mail exchanges between Karr and CU journalism professor (and former Rocky Mountain News contributor) Michael Tracey constituted their only real evidence against the man they arrested and paid handsomely to export from Bangkok. Their answer, basically, was yes, but they insisted that Karr's comments deserved the weight they gave them because some of the personal things he mentioned, like burns he'd received from his mother, had checked out.

Really. I'm not making this up.

Other revelations? John Ramsey and Tracey were informed that Karr's DNA exonerated him a day before Karr's defense attorney was given the same information, ostensibly because they needed time to process this turn of events. Also, Boulder investigators surreptitiously nabbed DNA samples off of Karr's bicycle and a drinking glass in Thailand prior to his arrest -- but testers said that to be certain of a match, they needed to get a "pristine" swab obtainable only with his permission or via a court order. This factor, and the fear that Karr would go after a five-year-old Thai girl he had his eye on, contributed to the decision to take him into custody before the majority of the investigation was complete.

Why the Thai police couldn't move forward given the danger allegedly looming over the child was never adequately explained -- and neither was Lacy's fondness for the word "psychopathy," which she used again and again. But she did concede that "I do not like talking about this case to the media at all," and suggested that the entire Karr matter would have taken place out of the public eye had not his presence in Thailand complicated the situation immeasurably. She added that she was not "embarrassed" by how she'd handled things of late, declaring, "I think we did a good job for the community."

A local radio host of some prominence might have a different point of view. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts