whites v Hunter
#1
1/16/1998 news article

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Articles from the Daily Camera


Romer rejects friends' request to replace Hunter
Whites write letter attacking D.A.'s actions in Ramsey case
Friday, January 16, 1998
Correction: Clarification published 1/17/98 follows: When Boulder Police Detective Linda Arndt arrived at the Ramsey home about 8 a.m. Dec. 26, 1996, several Ramsey family friends were at the scene. However, search warrants do not indicate that anyone but the Ramseys were home when police first arrived at 5:52 a.m. That point was incorrect in a story Friday.
The family friend who was with John Ramsey when he discovered the bludgeoned body of his 6-year-old daughter JonBenet is publicly calling on Gov. Roy Romer to remove Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter from the murder investigation.
Romer rejected the request.
In a 2,000-word letter in today's Daily Camera, oil magnate Fleet White Jr. and his wife, Priscilla, write that Hunter's actions over the past year have "created the strong appearance of impropriety, professional incompetence and a lack of objectivity."
After reading the Whites' letter, which also accuses the district attorney of sharing evidence with attorneys not involved in the police investigation, Hunter said he understood the couple's frustration.
"We have known for some time of Mr. and Mrs. White's concerns," Hunter said. "Unfortunately, because of Mr. and Mrs. White's status as witnesses in the case, we are unable to share with them information and insights that might provide them with the reassurance they seek."
In December, the Whites met with Romer to ask the governor to remove Hunter and appoint an independent prosecutor to the case. In a letter to the couple earlier this week, Romer said he wouldn't pull Hunter.
In a statement released Thursday, Romer said he investigated the Whites' request: "Among the advice I received was from the Boulder police chief, who said that this action was not needed and would not be helpful, because the investigation was proceeding and had not yet been turned over to the district attorney."
"This advice, other information and the fact that the case has not yet been referred to the district attorney have led me to the firm conclusion that it is not proper to intervene at this time."
The Whites also visited Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton last week, but were informed that Norton has no jurisdiction over the matter, Chief Deputy Attorney General Marti Allbright said Thursday. The attorney general announced in June she wouldn't prosecute the Ramsey case, as suggested by some.
In Colorado, the governor has statutory authority to appoint a special prosecutor to a case if a district attorney has refused to file charges. Romer has done this only once.
In the Ramsey case, though, "We have not seen any kind of refusal from the Boulder DA's office," Norton said Thursday. "They've not said, 'We're not going to prosecute.' They've essentially said it's still under investigation."
The Whites, close friends of the Ramseys, had invited the family to a Christmas dinner at their home the night of Dec. 25, 1996. The next morning, when Patsy Ramsey found a ransom note and discovered her 6-year-old daughter was missing, the Ramseys summoned their friends.
When police arrived at 5:52 a.m. Dec. 26, the Whites, along with friends John and Barbara Fernie and the Rev. Rol Hoverstock, were already at the Ramseys' 15th Street home.
At 1:05 p.m., after waiting hours to be contacted by kidnappers, Boulder Detective Linda Arndt asked John Ramsey to search the 15-room Tudor home.
"John Ramsey immediately went to the basement of the house, followed by Fleet White and John Fernie," Arndt reported. "Within a few minutes, Fleet came running upstairs, grabbed the telephone in the back office located on the first floor, and yelled for someone to call for an ambulance."
Since that time, the Whites have said little to the press. In April, Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby announced they had been ruled out as suspects in the murder, but were considered key witnesses.
When contacted Thursday, Fleet White said he had nothing to add to his letter.
Ramsey family spokespersons and attorneys did not return calls Thursday.
While Hunter once identified the Ramseys as the focus of the investigation, his office also has been eager to pursue other leads in the case. The police department has concentrated more on JonBenet's parents. In early December, Cmdr. Mark Beckner, who took over the reins of the investigation in October, said JonBenet's parents remained "under an umbrella of suspicion."
In their letter, the Whites express confidence in the police department's handling of the investigation, taking issue only with the district attorney's office.
Among the Whites' complaints against Hunter are "various relationships between the Boulder County District Attorney and members of the Boulder and Denver legal communities that may have impaired the objectivity" of the district attorney.
The couple also cites Hunter's reputation for not aggressively pursuing homicide cases as a factor in their decision to ask Romer to intervene.
Koby said Thursday that rumors of an irreparable rift between his department and the prosecutor's office, which the Whites bring up in their letter, are not accurate.
"The Boulder District Attorney has not done anything but try and be supportive of the investigation," Koby said. "Whether people agree with that is another issue."
Removing Hunter from the case, Koby said, would be "very much inappropriate" because, as Romer points out, the district attorney has not refused to prosecute anybody.
University of Colorado law professor Christopher Mueller said the Whites' letter puts Hunter in a difficult position. While the district attorney would no doubt like to defend his actions, Mueller said, he must be careful not to alienate the Whites, who likely would be witnesses in any eventual prosecution.
"It seems to be if he were to get at loggerheads with the Whites by criticizing them it would make his future task more difficult than it already is," Mueller said. "So making no comment is a prudent thing for Alex Hunter to do."
Although it appears clear the governor can't, at this time, remove Hunter from the Ramsey case, opinion over whether that's a prudent move is split.
Lee Hill, a former Boulder City Council candidate and San Diego prosecutor, said he supports the appointment of a special prosecutor solely on the appearance of impropriety. Some of Hunter's prosecutors have or have had social or legal relationships with attorneys close to the Ramseys.
But Dan Vigil, a CU professor of legal ethics, disagreed.
"It would be unethical for (Hunter) to file a case if he doesn't have probable cause," Vigil said.
Furthermore, the relationship between Hunter and other attorneys brought up in the Whites' letter is inconsequential because "in a legal community this size, people are going to interact," Vigil said.
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#2
"Fleet White came in to talk to me and Beckner," Koby told Hunter. "White wants you off the case. He says you leaked stuff to one of the tabloids after you met with him last year." Hunter remained silent. "He's on the warpath, and he's threatening to see the attorney general." Koby said that White refused to cooperate with the police as long as Hunter was still on the case. In one conversation with detectives, White had even teased the officers: "What would you say if I told you the Ramseys owned Hi-Tec shoes?"

pg 371 in Steve Thomas' book
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