More Messages: The Write Stuff, Mark III

The JonBenet Ramsey-obsessed Denver dailies have spilled more ink about handwriting in the past three days than they probably did in the previous three years. On August 22, the Rocky Mountain News published a piece that ballyhooed Texas-based handwriting pro Curt Baggett's near-certainty that suspect John Mark Karr had penned a ransom note found in the Ramsey home even as it downplayed discouraging words from other professionals in the field. Then, the next day, the Rocky printed a smaller, less prominent article noting that Baggett had been disqualified to testify in a case earlier this year by a judge who questioned his credentials. (This blog provides more details about the former; a subsequent item does likewise about the latter.)

Today, the Denver Post got into the act with a front-page salvo by reporter Kirk Mitchell headlined "Ransom Note's Link to Karr May Be Shaky, Experts Say." Strangely, the first "expert" trotted out was former Denver prosecutor-turned-KHOW talk-show host Craig Silverman, who suggested that handwriting breakdowns don't carry as much weight in court as other forms of physical evidence. Later, though, Baggett was pitted against Linda James, identified as vice president of the National Association of Document Examiners, who said that "Baggett's style is flawed, that he is premature and that he could falsely sway public opinion before a thorough analysis is done by experts."

There's no doubt Baggett is trying to wring some notoriety out of his sudden connection to the JonBenet case. The Post's offering pointed out that he's been sharing his theories about Karr "on TV and in newspapers across the country," but neglected to mention that radio was also part of the mix. Indeed, Baggett appeared Wednesday on the afternoon-drive program Silverman shares with Dan Caplis.

Why did the Post give major play to a handwriting story a day after the Rocky's alleged blockbuster had already pretty much petered out? Hard to say for sure, but after a little more than a week, the Post seems slightly embarrassed by the necessity to cover the JonBenet investigation again, while the Rocky comes across as exceedingly, almost frighteningly gung-ho. As a result, don't be surprised if the Rocky drills more dry holes in search of another JonBenet gusher -- and expect the Post to belatedly needle the paper when it does. After all, the writing is on the wall. -- 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