Nationally, the story of Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy's decision to "clear" the Ramsey family in the 1996 death of six-year-old JonBenét is playing out as a complete vindication of John Ramsey and his late wife, Patsy. (And vindication of Lou "Intruder Alert" Smit, Michael "Let's Make a Documentary" Tracey and Mary Lacy herself, but that's another story.) Journalists unfamiliar with the messy ambiguities of the case have simply rubber-stamped Lacy's unusual move, which is based on "touch" DNA sampling that indicates the presence of unidentified male DNA on JonBenet's long johns, matching a previous sample from the girl's underwear. After all, DNA is pretty conclusive stuff, right?
Unfortunately, Lacy's office has tried to spin the case in so many ways, sometimes even outright misrepresenting the evidence (as in the case of bogus confessor John Mark Karr, whose story fell a few leagues short of plausible even before the DNA "cleared" him), that it would be good to pose a few questions before jumping on the bandwagon. Is this DNA sample of any better quality than the one found in the underwear? Could it have been transferred from the underwear to the long johns as a result of the widespread evidence contamination that resulted from a botched investigation? Could it be an "artifact" not belonging to the killer at all, as Lacy herself suggested once upon a time?
And how does this sample, even if it holds up to scrutiny, eliminate the Ramseys from any possible involvement given the other bits of evidence -- the, um, ransom note comes to mind -- that cast suspicion on them in the first place? After all, this is the same Mary Lacy who once said (about Karr, no less!), "No one is really cleared of a homicide until there's a conviction… I don’t think you will get any prosecutor… unless they were present with the person at the time of the crime… to clear someone."
Many of these questions, and more, have already been posed on the ever-vigilant Forums for Justice website — see, for example, this press statement by forum hostess Tricia Griffith, one of the leading critics of the Lacy/Tracey/Smit cabal. Other cynics include former tabloid ace reporter Jeffrey Shapiro, whose condemnation of Lacy's self-serving expiation can be found here, and this blog by the Denver Post's David Harsanyi.
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The questions are out there, but where are the answers? -- Alan Prendergast