Governor Roy Romer
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The BoulderNews Ramsey Archive
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.
The BoulderNews Ramsey Archive

Articles from the Daily Camera

Special prosecutor not appointed often
Romer has used his authority only once in this area
Friday, January 16, 1998
Only once has Gov. Roy Romer exerted his statutory authority over a criminal case and had a special prosecutor appointed to file charges in a case of alleged child abuse at a day care center in northeastern Colorado.
"There is a statute that gives a governor the authority to appoint a special prosecutor in certain circumstances at the governor's discretion," said Jim Carpenter, Romer's spokesman.
Carpenter cited a case in the 1980s involving allegations of child sex assault and satanic rituals at a day care facility in Akron. In that case, the 13th judicial district prosecutor determined there wasn't enough evidence and didn't file charges.
Romer, then in his first year as governor, questioned the decision and in 1987 appointed a special prosecutor to review the case. Charges subsequently were filed, leading to at least one conviction and a guilty plea - as well as years of court proceedings and media coverage.
Denver defense attorney Craig Truman said the governor can invoke the law only if a prosecutor has refused to file charges. Attorney General Gale Norton said the statute is the same one cited by New York attorney Darnay Hoffman, but Carpenter said it was a different statute.
Hoffman also has attempted to have a special prosecutor appointed and force charges in the Ramsey case by filing a lawsuit against Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter complaining that Hunter had effectively "refused" to file charges in the year-old murder case.
Hoffman, who has hired handwriting experts to analyze Patsy Ramsey's handwriting, said there is ample evidence to arrest JonBenet's mother in the murder.
Hunter, however, has said he has not yet received a case from police so he couldn't make a decision on whether to file charges. A judge's ruling in the Hoffman case is pending.
Prior to Romer's action, Truman said he recalled a case involving allegations of organized crime in the early 1970s in Trinidad. Ironically, Hal Haddon - a lead attorney for John Ramsey - was appointed special prosecutor by the governor, Truman said.
However, Carpenter said the statute is rarely used because of a "long tradition of local police authority and local prosecution authority."
Frank Jamison, a University of Denver law professor, said the governor has another avenue.
"The governor is empowered to have a court impanel a statewide grand jury that can reach from one district to another and get another DA," Jamison said. "If the governor determines something of a statewide interest is going on and there is no grand jury investigating, he can get any district he wants to impanel a grand jury to investigate that matter."
Hunter also has the option to excuse himself from the case - but First Assistant District Attorney Bill Wise made it clear that is not an option in the Ramsey case.
More common is intervention by the courts when conflicts of interest arise in a legal case, such as a witness, victim or defendant who is a relative of someone in the district attorney's office, Wise said.
Wise said that about six times per year he alerts a district court judge to potential conflicts of interest and calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor.
The BoulderNews Ramsey Archive

Articles from the Daily Camera

Legal experts support Hunter
Governor right in not removing D.A., lawyers say
Saturday, January 17, 1998
Legal experts Friday applauded Gov. Roy Romer's decision not to remove Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter from the year-old investigation into 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey's slaying.
However, one pointed out that Ramsey family friends Fleet and Priscilla White could file a grievance with the Colorado Supreme Court to ask that Hunter be taken off the case.
"But I just don't think there are grounds to accuse him of improper conduct," University of Colorado criminal law professor Mimi Wesson said.
In a 2,000-word letter published in Friday's Daily Camera, the Whites attacked Hunter and asked Romer to use his statutory power to remove the district attorney from the Ramsey case and appoint an independent prosecutor.
In a statement released Thursday, Romer said he turned down the Whites' request because Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby thought such an action would not be helpful and, at this point, police haven't even turned over a case to prosecutors.
The Whites' letter alleges Hunter's actions over the past year have "created the strong appearance of impropriety, professional incompetence and a lack of objectivity."
Legal experts, though, discounted those accusations, saying the district attorney has done nothing wrong.
"If the Boulder DA's office says there is insufficient evidence, it would be a miscarriage of justice for them to file a case; it would be unethical," said Larry Pozner of Denver, president-elect of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "When the Boulder DAs say they don't have a case, they don't have a case."
Christopher Mueller, also a CU law professor, agreed he's seen no indications that Hunter's office could pull off a successful prosecution of anyone at this point.
"The Whites also appear to believe that there is some kind of conflict of interest," Mueller said. "I have read public accounts of this subject which led me to the contrary conclusion."
While she doesn't support such a move, Wesson pointed out that any Coloradan could file a complaint against Hunter with the Colorado Supreme Court grievance committee. Some have said prosecutors in Hunter's office have had social or legal relationships with lawyers affiliated with the Ramseys.
"But I doubt very much the committee would say Hunter is obligated to recuse himself from heading up this prosecution team," Wesson added.
"At the same time, I think it's disquieting when people (the Whites) whose trust and cooperation are very important to a successful prosecution - should there ever be one - have developed such mistrust of the DA's office," Wesson said.
Because Fleet White was the only person with John Ramsey when he found the lifeless body of his daughter the morning of Dec. 26, 1996, White is considered a key witness in whatever case the police may eventually forward to the district attorney's office.
In April, Koby formally ruled out the Whites as suspects in the murder.
Fleet White told the Daily Camera Thursday he had nothing to add to his letter. Attorneys and spokespersons for the Ramsey family did not return repeated calls Thursday or Friday.
While Hunter once identified the Ramseys as a focus of the investigation, his office also has pursued other leads. The police investigators, whom the Whites support in their letter, have concentrated more on JonBenet's parents. As recently as December, Detective Cmdr. Mark Beckner said John and Patsy Ramsey remain "under an umbrella of suspicion."
Thursday, just a day before the Whites' concerns were made public, Boulder police announced the Ramseys had declined to participate in another formal interview because investigators refused to show "good faith" by divulging evidence to the family's legal team.
Gregg McCrary, a former psychological profiler for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, called the Ramseys' conditions "ridiculous."
John and Patsy Ramsey, after months of negotiations, submitted to separate police interviews last April. When Beckner took over the investigation last fall, he announced his desire to further question the parents.
"This is just an easy way for them to say 'no,'" McCrary said. "They get the result they want, which is no interview, without saying 'no.' Now they can turn around and say the police are obstructing the whole thing."
But Pozner, as a defense attorney, said the Ramseys are being smart.
"I certainly agree with the notion that good faith has to run in both directions," Pozner said. "There's plenty of room to believe that the Boulder police don't intend to fairly evaluate the evidence and fairly follow every lead.
"Once you come to the conclusion, as a lawyer, that your client is not going to be dealt with fairly and honestly, then why participate at all?"

Contact the NewsRoom or BoulderNews.
Copyright 1998 The Daily Camera. Any copying, redistribution, or retransmission of any of the contents of this service without the express written consent of The Daily Camera is expressly prohibited.
The BoulderNews Ramsey Archive

Articles from the Daily Camera

Hunter to meet with task force

By Christopher Anderson
Camera Staff Writer

Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter will meet Wednesday with the governor's JonBenét Ramsey task force and respond, point-by-point, to accusations from a former Boulder police detective that the prosecutor's office mishandled the investigation into JonBenét's murder.
Monday, Gov. Roy Romer announced at an unrelated press conference that the task force — a group of district attorney's from around the Denver metro area appointed last week to look into Detective Steve Thomas' claims — is expected to make a recommendation within seven days as to whether he should hand the Ramsey case over to a special prosecutor.
Hunter is due to return to town today from an Alaskan vacation and meet with his staff in the evening.
Until a two-hour briefing over the phone Monday morning, Hunter was unaware of the blistering, multi-page letter from Thomas, who resigned Aug. 6, the day JonBenét would have turned 8. JonBenét was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family's Boulder home on Dec. 26, 1996. There have been no arrests, although her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, remain at the center of the investigation, police said.
Thomas, who was a key investigator in the murder, accused Hunter's office of sharing information with Ramsey lawyers, thwarting the police department's investigation and asked for a special prosecutor to take over.
In January, Romer refused a similar request from a friend of the Ramseys, who was at the family's home the morning JonBenét's body was discovered.
Last week, Hunter's office called Thomas' letter "outrageous" and "substantially false and misleading." His staff members repeatedly have said they are willing to provide the governor's panel whatever information it seeks.
Boulder police officials have said the department does not agree with Thomas' opinion that the case cannot be successfully concluded and is "disappointed" he chose "to vent his frustrations."
At Monday's press conference, Romer said the content of Thomas' letter "was pretty direct, and forceful," but he has not made up his mind whether he will interfere in the nearly 20-month-old case.
He is awaiting reports from Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant, Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas, Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter and Arapahoe County District Attorney Jim Peters. The four have consulted with Hunter on the case and were present during a police presentation of the case in June.
Besides Hunter, they are scheduled to meet Wednesday at an undisclosed location with Boulder County First Assistant District Attorney Bill Wise, Lead Trial Deputy Peter Hofstrom and other staff.
"I don't want to give the impression at this press conference that I'm about to appoint a special prosecutor. Don't read that out of my comments," Romer said. "It may well be that I'm not going to do anything. It may be very disruptive to that case to change it now, and if that's the case, I'm not going to do it," he said.
Romer said he took Thomas' letter under advisement, "Because of content, and because of public confidence."
"It is obvious this has been a troubled case," Romer said. "There were certain things that happened in the first 24 hours you can't correct.
"But the issue now is, as you go forward, can you get a better and more just solution to this by maintaining the present leadership, or changing that leadership? And that is a decision that cannot be made with the jerk of a knee," he said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

August 11, 1998
State to cover all grand jury costs

By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer

Gov. Roy Romer's promise this week to assign special deputy district attorneys to the JonBenét Ramsey case isn't the only "free" help Boulder prosecutors will receive in their quest to solve the nearly 20-month-old slaying.
The bill for the grand jury — perhaps the most powerful tool at investigators' disposal — won't be footed by the Boulder County District Attorney's Office.
"It all comes out of the state of Colorado's budget," said Bob Bernard, 20th Judicial District court administrator, "all the expenses for jury fees, expert witness fees, regular witness fees, travel lodging and whatever other miscellaneous fees may come up."
District Attorney Alex Hunter and his staff spent Thursday continuing their preparations for the grand jury investigation into the Dec. 26, 1996, slaying of 6-year-old JonBenét.
As for determining who will be joining Hunter's staff as special assistants, those "consultations and conversations are under way," spokeswoman Suzanne Laurion said.
In keeping with Colorado law, the DA's office also remains quiet on the issue of where and when the grand jury will meet.
But Bernard disclosed that the secret proceedings may be held right down the hall from the district attorney's offices.
"They want to use the Justice Center for a host of obvious reasons," Bernard said. "But we've not made any decision on that."
In the past, Bernard has said the Boulder County Justice Center, at 6th and Canyon, would be unavailable during the day because of heavy court dockets. Grand juries, though, often meet at night or on weekends to accommodate jurors.
Romer announced Wednesday that Hunter will take the highly publicized Ramsey murder case to the county's standing grand jury.
Reacting to a Boulder police detective's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, the governor also had been pondering — and decided against — the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Police have no suspects and have made no arrests in the beating and strangulation death of JonBenét. Her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, remain under suspicion, although they maintain their innocence.
The grand jury's power lies in its ability to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony. Nine of 12 grand jurors can vote for an indictment — or a "true bill" — based on probable cause.
But some experts still don't think the case will be solved by a grand jury investigation.
University of Denver law Professor Frank Jamison postulated, "The grand jury will come back with no true bill and the police can mark the case solved because they know who did it and the DA's office can mark the case as solved because the grand jury failed to indict."
Former FBI profiler Gregg McCrary said that an investigation into the murder isn't enough — the investigation itself must be investigated.
"I think it would be helpful to do that in this case because there are so many facets to this that the truth just needs to be ferreted out," McCrary said.
Funds to pay for what could be a long, slow grand jury inquest will come out of the state's judicial division, which has a 1998 budget of $17.5 million, Bernard said.
But, Bernard said, "whatever the DA gives us bills for, we've got to pay." And if the 20th district's chunk of that $17.5 million isn't enough, he said, "we'll have to transfer money form other portions of the budget."
The 12 grand jurors themselves will be paid $50 a day, after the third day they meet.
The special assistants Romer authorized Wednesday also won't be paid for by Boulder County. They will be loaned from another district attorney's office, likely one of the four metro-area offices already involved in the Ramsey investigation in advisory roles.
According to Boulder County budget figures, Hunter's office had spent $252,610 in 1997 and 1998 on the Ramsey investigation, as of mid-July.

August 14, 1998

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