I’m a fan of true crime stories and stories involving the criminal justice system. I also follow cases of wrongful convictions. After watching the CBS special The Case of: JonBenet Ramsy, I felt like I had just witnessed a wrongful conviction.
In wrongful convictions, there are often some common mistakes that investigators make: They tend to develop tunnel vision once they develop a theory. They explain away evidence that doesn’t support their theory. They try to shape the evidence to prove their theory. All of this was on full display over four hours of prime time TV with a roomful of experts all trying to turn hunches and speculation into fact. It’s the whole group dynamic where no one wants to go against the group’s theory, even when there is a roomful of experts.
I don’t have the several hours it would take to dissect everything that these experts got wrong. But I do have time to make a few observations. I’ll start with all of the evidence that was left out. There was no mention of the shoe print that was discovered in the basement that did not match any of the household members. There was no weight given to the possibility that the intruder entered the house during the time the Ramsey’s were at the Christmas party, and thus would have had plenty of time to write the ransom note. There was no mention of the scratch marks found on JonBenet’s neck indicating that she had struggled to remove the binding around her neck, which would have indicated that she was conscious during this event. There was no explanation of why investigators did not find duct tape anywhere in the house that matched the duct tape placed over JonBenet’s mouth.
So let’s look at how the investigators shaped the evidence to fit their theory. Take the cobwebs in the window. In their demonstration, they made a big deal of how it was night time, and there was no way that an intruder could have entered the basement and not disturb the cobwebs. But did you see them try to enter the window without disturbing the cobwebs? First, let’s assume the intruder entered during the time the Ramsey’s were gone. It would have been daylight. There were scuff marks directly below the window. So isn’t it possible that an intruder could have entered the window differently than what was shown? Perhaps backward with their foot bracing against the wall.
How about the ransom note? Four handwriting experts reviewed the note and Patsy’s handwriting examples. None of the four said that Patsy wrote the note. One expert said that they could not exclude Patsy as the author. It’s a three-page ransom note. Try to disguise your handwriting in a single paragraph and report back to me.
I’m not a stun gun expert, but I am certain that there are different types of stun guns. I have seen a demonstration of a stun gun used on a pig that had identical marks like those found on JonBenet.
The experts next tried to dissect Burke’s various interviews. Of course, they found evidence of deception in every case. He didn’t react the right way. He didn’t say what he should have said. So what about when they ask him how JonBent was killed. He has no clue. Maybe with a knife, he responds. Maybe with a hammer he says, making a striking motion. This kid must be pretty damn smart to make up those stories just to throw off the investigators.
And what about the evidence that clearly showed a third person was involved? The TV investigators stage a ridiculous demonstration to show how even a pair of panties bought at a store can have unidentified DNA evidence. But the DNA found on the panties was a spot of blood. And touch DNA found elsewhere on JonBenet’s clothing matched the DNA in the panties. So how do you explain that away? It must have been transfer DNA, according to the experts.
The whole idea that the parents came up with the idea to stage the scene to throw off investigators is laughable. The Ramsey’s did the right thing. They cooperated with the police until the point they realized that the focus of the investigation was on them and not the real perpetrator. Had they not gotten a lawyer and stopped cooperating, they likely would have been wrongly convicted. Anyone interested in wrongful convictions should study this series. It’s a textbook case of how they occur.