Ramseys not called to speak
Parents of slain girl not subpoenaed to testify
By Charlie Brennan
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

BOULDER -- The JonBenet Ramsey grand jury will hear from new witnesses
when it returns to work Thursday, according to a source close to the case.
And they're not John and Patsy Ramsey.
The parents of 6-year-old JonBenet, considered suspects in their child's
Christmas night 1996 slaying, still have not been subpoenaed to testify
before the grand jury probing her murder, the source said.
The Ramseys, who now live in Atlanta with their
12-year-old son, Burke, have steadfastly
maintained their innocence.
The grand jury's 18-month term expires Oct. 20.
Exactly who will testify is unclear.
Burke Ramsey is the only family member known
to have testified before the eight-man,
four-woman panel. His testimony came just prior
to the grand jury's May 25 meeting, which was
followed by a layoff lasting all summer.
The list of those not yet called as witnesses
contains another surprise.
A former executive at Access Graphics, the $1
billion Boulder computer software firm where John
Ramsey worked as president and chief executive
in 1996, said no one from that company has
"I don't know anybody from Access who has been
called," said the executive who stays in touch with
past and present company officials.
A 21/2-page ransom note Patsy Ramsey said she
found in the house Dec. 26, 1996, when JonBenet
was discovered missing suggested a possible
business connection in the murder.
The note said the culprits represented "a small
foreign faction" who told John Ramsey "we respect
your business, but not the country that it serves."
Former FBI criminal profiler John Douglas, hired
by the Ramseys, also concluded the crime was
likely committed by someone outside the family,
and possibly by someone with a business-related
grudge against John Ramsey.
Scott Robinson, a Denver attorney who has
followed the case closely, said the fact that
apparently, few people -- if any -- from John
Ramsey's former business have testified, could be
"It means either the Boulder police have
exhausted, independently of the grand jury, every
slimly related lead, or the grand jury -- for
whatever reason -- has focused elsewhere in the
search for JonBenet's killer," said Robinson.
"The police, in general, have long had the
Ramseys as their principle and apparently sole
suspects. But even with that in mind, it would be
beneficial to any eventual prosecution to rule out
business jealousy or business-related anger as a
potential motivation for the murder of JonBenet."
Robinson said the fact that more witnesses are
scheduled to appear before the panel, which
resumes its meetings Thursday after a four-month
break, shoots down one popular theory.
"This suggests that the jury has not been spending
the last few weeks working out the bugs on a
report, in lieu of indictment -- which had been a
plausible explanation for the hiatus," said
Robinson, "and that they have not yet decided
what to do. They want to make sure that no voice
goes unheard before reaching a determination."

Those who have not yet appeared include former
Ramsey neighbor Melody Stanton. Stanton, who
has since moved out of Boulder, lived across the
street from the Ramseys and told police she heard
a child's scream not long after falling asleep
Christmas night.

Her comments to police about the scream have
been the subject of much analysis for what that
scream might say about the possible time of
death, and for what it might say about where, in
the Ramseys' expansive home, the killing might
have taken place.

Authorities have never specified a time of death in
the case. The Ramseys told police they put
JonBenet to bed shortly after arriving home from
a party shortly after 9:30 p.m. on Christmas
Among those witnesses who might still be
scheduled could be some of the same case
investigators who passed through the courtroom
in the grand jury's first days last fall.
Former prosecutor Dave Heckenbach, who ran
grand juries for the Denver district attorney's
office from 1986 to 1992, pointed out that as
recently as early summer, some of those
detectives were still actively interviewing
witnesses and seeking additional evidence.
"If they've done a lot of work, between the last
time they met and now, the grand jury would
have to meet a few times -- or have one
megasession, depending on how much work the
police have done in the interim."
September 22, 1999
Ramseys likely won't testify for grand jury

However, they will appear if subpoenaed, their attorney says

By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer

When Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter decided to present the JonBenét Ramsey murder case to a grand jury, many observers presumed his goal was to compel the parents of the slain 6-year-old girl to talk.

Yet as the Ramsey grand-jury inquest rolls toward a conclusion, some criminal-justice experts say there's a good chance John and Patsy Ramsey will never be called to testify.

"It's very doubtful that either one of them would be paraded before the grand jury," said Robert Pugsley, a professor of criminal law at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles.

"Because at least one of them, if not both, are the so-called punitive targets of the grand jury."

Hunter began presenting evidence in the Christmas 1996 slaying to Boulder County's grand jury Sept. 15. The 12 jurors and five alternates generally meet twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the Boulder County Justice Center.

Because the panel's one-year term expires April 22 and prosecutors only requested funding through the end of this month, some observers believe the investigation is winding down.

JonBenét Ramsey was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her parents' home Dec. 26, 1996. Although her parents are under suspicion in the former Little Miss Colorado's death, they maintain their innocence.

Citing grand-jury secrecy rules, neither the Boulder County District Attorney's Office nor the Ramseys' attorneys will discuss whether or not JonBenét's parents will testify.

The Ramseys long have been criticized for not cooperating with the police investigation — although they have been more forthcoming with Hunter's office. The couple last talked to investigators in June, a three-day meeting initiated by John Ramsey in a letter to the district attorney.

After those interviews, John Ramsey's attorney, Bryan Morgan, told the Daily Camera, "If subpoenaed, they would indeed appear before the grand jury. That is the agreement and we will honor it."

But that subpoena may never come.

"I don't think they'll be called at all," said University of Denver law professor Frank Jamison. "You only call a suspect when you're after three or four people and you try and get one of the lesser players to roll over."

Pugsley said prosecutors gunning for an indictment might worry their target could win over the jurors: "Any time (a prosecutor) calls the defendant in, it jeopardizes his case."

Former FBI profiler Gregg McCrary called the decision whether or not to compel the Ramseys' testimony "sort of a legal chess game."

"If you've got hours and hours of videotape, do you just want to show the grand jury that?" McCrary asked, referring to the 40-plus hours of taped interviews from last June. "Or do you want to show (the grand jury) that and then bring the Ramseys in and try to expose some inconsistencies?"

Calling the decision "a case-by-case kind of thing," the prosecutor in charge of Jefferson County's grand jury said there is no set rule against subpoenaing a suspect.

"The purpose of a grand-jury investigation is not necessarily to indict someone," Jefferson County Senior Deputy District Attorney Dennis Hall said. "If a target really has some sort of explanation that would exonerate him, you want to know that upfront."

And if the Ramseys are called to testify, some wonder how forthcoming they'll be.

"Yeah, a target can testify," University of Florida criminal-procedure professor Jerold Israel said. "But usually they take the privilege against self-incrimination."

Jefferson County's grand-jury prosecutor said he consults with suspects' attorneys beforehand to find out whether they'll assert their Fifth Amendment right.

"If you think the person is just going to refuse to answer questions on the grounds that that would incriminate them, then it's not worth wasting everybody's time," Hall said.

If a grand-jury witness takes the Fifth, he or she can be forced to talk only through an offer of immunity.

"Of course, you generally don't want to immunize the target," Hall said. "In this kind of situation, where you're investigating a murder, it's pretty hard to see where you'd do that."

March 2, 1999 |
Colorado law involving grand juries is evolving. Alot of western states did not have grand juries, eastern states use them all the time.

Unless waived, an inperson appearance before the grand jury is considered to be jeopardy. And it is axiomatic that once jeopardy has been attached there is only ONE chance.

No one wanted the Ramseys to personally appear before the grand jury for fear their lawyers might later claim double jeopardy if there was a later arrest and trial for murder.

With the law in Colorado unsettled because they had just adopted a grand jury system, no prosecutor wanted to risk anything no matter how willing the Ramseys were to waive their rights.
(05-20-2017, 11:21 AM)Toth Wrote: Unless waived, an inperson appearance before the grand jury is considered to be jeopardy.

Hi Toth,

Do you have a reference for this?  The reason I ask is that generally speaking, jeopardy does not attach until an indictment was issued AND the jury or bench trial starts with swearing in or testimony of the first witness (or something like that).  I can't find anything about in-person appearance and jeopardy attachment for grand jury investigations.  IMO there are good arguments for both ways of doing it, but surely this has been decided (legally speaking, not necessarily common sense!) long ago.

>>>Do I have a citation to this ....?
Not off the top  my head. I'm dealing with a heat wave here and a recalcitrant air conditioning system, but as I recall different states have different rules as to when jeopardy attaches. At trial, the mere swearing in of a petit jury is sometimes sufficient so once the veniremen have been questioned and are then sworn in as jurors, jeopardy has attached. In other states, some evidence has to have been offered, so swearing in the first witness and asking that witness his name is what makes it jeopardy. An opening statement is not evidence so the jury has not heard any evidence but if the trial is to a judge then he, as the trier of fact, will sometimes be considered to have heard evidence.

Its not really an issue that comes up all that often. In New York where grand juries abound the defendant usually does not appear so there is no issue of jeopardy. Only the prosecutor asks presents witnesses to the grand jury and the grand jury, although usually a rubber stamp, can interrogate the witnesses and the prosecutor. The defense's sole option is to read the transcript and point out prosectutoral bias or over reaching to obtain a dismissal of the indictment.

As I recall, New York is one of the states that considers an appearance before the grand jury to have been jeopardy.

Once my brain cools down from this heat wave, I'll try to find something authoritative. I do know that Colorado had only newly adopted a grand jury system and therefore their law was unsettled at the time.

"... For example, New York has consistently held that, in keeping with the privilege against self-incrimination, "a person against whom the inquiry of the grand jury is directed should not be required to attend before that body, much less be sworn by it, and if he is and an indictment be found, it should be set aside upon motion and, if not, if the fact appears upon the trial, it will invalidate a conviction if one be had." People v. Gillette, 126 App. Div. 665, 670, 111 N.Y. Supp. 133, 136 (1908) (conviction for perjury before grand jury reversed because oath invalid). See People v. DeFeo, 308 N.Y. 595, 127 N.E.2d 592 (1955) (reversing contempt conviction for failure of prospective defendant to answer questions); People v. Werkes, 46 Misc. 2d 1020, 261 N.Y.S.2d 726 (Sup. Ct. 1965) (setting aside indictment where defendant was called); People v. Seaman, 174 Misc. 792, 21 N.Y.S.2d 917 (Sup. Ct. 1940); People v. Bermel, 71 Misc. 356, 128 N.Y. Supp. 524 (Sup. Ct. 1911). Other states have reached the same conclusion..."

Duke Law Journal  Rights of a Grand Jury Witness analyzing the system in general and differentiating between a federal grand jury and a state's grand jury.

Be advised: By Colorado statute only the state's witnesses can be called, so there is never a defendant or potential defendant's right to seek an appearance before the grand jury.

As always, if a grand jury votes a True Bill of Indictment then the defendant formally stands accused but if a grand jury returns a No Bill of Indictment that decision is in no way binding upon any subsequent grand jury.
Thanks for your reply. 

I searched quite a bit and, as I said, only saw (repeated by several attorneys) that jeopardy attaches only after indictment, when the jury or bench trial "starts" (for example, testimony begins or jury is impaneled --- may vary by jurisdiction).  But they didn't even broach the subject of grand jury testimony by someone for whom an indictment is later issued, so that's a possible exception.  I'd be surprised, though. 

One attorney said that the jeopardy has to do with the real risk being "convicted."  A grand jury is an investigative body, and it's not ever truly known whom, if anyone, will be indicted until the end.  Then when one considers that indicted persons can be endlessly retried after a mistrial has been declared, it seems weird that jeopardy would attach so far back in the process.

But consider this, also:  Suppose that jeopardy did attach with testimony before a grand jury.  Suppose they testified.   Suppose that an indictment was issued by the grand jury, but just as Hunter did, nothing was filed.  Now suppose another grand jury formed and again decided to indict, this time the DA files it, then a jury or bench trial begins.  That's arguably still not double jeopardy because there was only one trial.  Dissolving one grand jury and convening another is just like recommencing an investigation.  (The Supreme Court allows this.)  A verdict has not been reached, so I would say that if jeopardy attached upon testimony before a grand jury, it won't end until a verdict has been reached.  Even then it could go on through appeals and retrials, etc.  I don't think that your conclusion that the Ramseys could not be later arrested and tried if they testified before the grand jury is correct, even if jeopardy attached upon testimony before a grand jury.
The primary role of a grand jury is to act as a restraint upon the prosecutor so the grand jury has to determine that this is a statute that should be enforced and that moreover it is a statute that should be enforced in this particular situation.

The King used to be able to try people and if the jury said not guilty simply try them again before a different jury.

It is extremely rare for a suspect to be called before a grand jury or to be allowed to appear even if he seeks to. That is why you will rarely find any mention of jeopardy attaching at a grand jury proceeding. Legal journals rarely discuss hens teeth. Yet in NY it is the law that jeopardy would attach at the grand jury and any later indictment by the grand jury would be quashed or any later conviction would be vitiated. 

I think that its a harder question in Colorado because their law on grand juries is brand new. 

In Colorado only the state's witnesses are heard.
(05-21-2017, 09:26 PM)Toth Wrote: Yet in NY it is the law that jeopardy would attach at the grand jury and any later indictment by the grand jury would be quashed or any later conviction would be vitiated. 

Hi Toth,

There are two claims here regarding New York law: 1) Jeopardy attaches at the point you say it does; 2) Jeopardy ends at the conclusion of work of the first grand jury if no indictment is returned rather than continuing on until a verdict is returned.  Do you now have references for either of these?  (You say "Hens teeth exist" but I cannot find anything anywhere that even mentions hen's teeth except for your claim!)  For the scenario you described earlier to apply, both of these claims need to be true.

Thanks for any additional info.
The grand jury could have been used as an investigative tool but was not. The grand jury could have ASKED for the suspects to be called in so they could see for themselves what the Ramseys had to say before they voted to indict - they did not. Instead they listened to the persecution make it's case and disrespect witnesses that DID appear in support of the Intruder Theory. (Lou Smit, John Douglas and others described that clearly) They heard the police ask for a day in court and did the least they could do to placate the police who would be their protection for years after they left that courthouse.

I have been told Don Foster - discredited as he was - did not appear but his theories and "work" was presented by the persecution anyway. That was shameful and shameless behavior.

It was a witch hunt, not an honest attempt to get to the truth.
(05-22-2017, 09:49 PM)jameson245 Wrote: It was a witch hunt, not an honest attempt to get to the truth.

Of course it was. The grand jury was emplanelled solely for political reasons. Once you have that .. it will always be a witch hunt. 
The BPD was thumping their chests and braying about 'this is OUR turf', they used the Mayor as a mouthpiece, they did end-runs around the DA, ... it was a department obsessed with their reputation and job security.

Re: Hens Teeth... I think the epression is 'as rare as hen's teeth' and it means something that is for all practical purposes utterly non existent. It is in that sense that I referred to defendants appearing before a grand jury. The citations for the legal consequences of it will be few and far between because such an incident rarely happens, so it generates very little law.

If there is a trial before a petit jury, jeopardy can attach when the jury is sworn or the first witness is sworn. (laws vary).
If there is a bench trial, jeopardy attaches when any evidence is presented even if it is utterly minimal.

But these are petit juries,,, the usual 'twelve good men and true'.

A grand jury is usually far more than twelve but Connecticut law allows a One Member grand jury to exist, though that too rarely happens in actual fact. I think the most recent one man grand jury in Connecticut was in the early sixties.

In New York, you get more case law because the defendant being bound over to the grand jury is common, even though the grand jury really acts as a mere "rubber stamp" which gave rise to the famous example of a prosecutor exclaiming "I can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich". 

Eons ago I happened to be present at a probable cause hearing for an ABC violator. The question before the court is simply is there enough evidence to bind the defendant over to the grand jury, so they can then indict him and then he will come back and be tried before a petit juror. The Assistant DA has to prove eight separate elements to prove the Alcohol Beverage Control laws have been violated and therefore 'win' by having the defendant bound over. The ADA got up and proved only FOUR out of the eight and the defense lawyer should have said 'move to dismiss for failure to state a claim'. However this utterly stupid defense lawyer got up on his hind legs and starting asking his client questions, soon eliciting elements Five, Six, Seven and Eight. Whereupon the judge could have bound the defendant over to the grand jury, but the judge announced in open court that its not fair to hang a man for what his own lawyer did to him and so dismissed the complaint as 'no probable cause established'.

It is very rare for a suspect to ever seek to appear or be called to appear before a grand jury, but if in NY it actually happens that a suspect does appear before a grand jury, the moment he is sworn in, jeopardy has attached. That is the law in NY. If he is indicted and later tried and convicted, the conviction will be expunged upon proper motion.

All this is rare in NY but settled law despite its rareity. Colorado law on Grand Jury is NEW and unsettled. Colorado fears a runaway grand jury whih can sometime happen in NY (the Grand Jury meets when and where it decides and fails to obey the DA due to suspicions or whatever). So even though Colorado statutes are more restrictive, Colorado in no way wanted a powerful or independent grand jury. And certainly would never call The Ramseys for fear it would become a publicity springboard or a legal claim of jeopardy having attached.

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