Geraldo Rivera Show Live - Thursday, March 16, 2000


"Geraldo 3.16, Part 1"
Posted by LizzieB on 22:55:17 3/16/2000


Guests: Larry Schiller, Bob Grant, Alan Dershowitz, Barry Scheck

GR: (missed the first few seconds) John and Patsy Ramsey's long-awaited book goes on sale tomorrow. It is a highly emotional, carefully crafted work that names possible suspects and bashes the media, including comparing me to Joseph Goebbels, which pisses me off more than I can ever tell you and makes me want to spit. In any case, I'll get into that later. The book also attacks Colorado's governor and speaks directly to the person they call the killer.

It also reveals that as Patsy was choosing an outfit for JonBenet's funeral, her thoughts turned to a former first lady. She says, "At that moment a picture of Jackie Kennedy abruptly flashed across my mind. I remembered her wearing a black veil, walking hand in hand with her two children to JFK's gravesite. Now I could see why people wore veils at such times…with the covering and protection, I could cry, be private in my grief."

John Ramsey compares himself to another American hero, writing, "Ironically, for two years after the kidnapping and murder of Lindbergh's baby boy, many people considered Charles Lindbergh a prime suspect."

Hi everybody, I'm Geraldo Rivera. It doesn't go on sale until noon Friday, but we've obtained a copy of their book. Undoubtedly it's going to sell hot. Tomorrow, by this time, the Death of Innocence will be a big best seller, I expect. It will be a comfort as well to anybody who believes the Ramseys have been victimized twice, first by whomsoever murdered their beauty queen child, and second by prosecutors, public officials, and reporters, who continue to accurately depict the couple as the prime and only credible suspects in this controversial case. But it will surely outrage many others who will see the book of three years of denying, stonewalling, finger pointing, and covering up.

But before we hear from our all-star panel of experts, and they are a terrific panel, Barry Scheck and Alan Dershowitz, Bob Grant and Larry Schiller, let me outline what may be the riskiest move the Ramseys make in this book, casting suspicion on four other people that the Ramseys say could have carried out the vicious crime, the murder of JonBenet.

Now, early in the book they write about their cleaning lady, Linda Hoffman-Pugh, who had called Patsy in tears a couple of days before Christmas saying she needed $2,500 in rent money. John writes that Patsy planned to leave Linda a check, then adds, "Patsy remembers that her mother had said that Linda had remarked to her at one time 'JonBenet is so pretty; aren't you afraid that someone might kidnap her?' Now those comments seem strangely menacing."

In 1997, I asked Linda about being considered a suspect.

Video of Geraldo's other show, on which Linda appeared on 11/10/97:
GR: Were you humiliated by the fact that you had to take a blood test and give your fingerprints? Did you ask why you were being interviewed?

LHP: Absolutely not. I knew why. Because I had a key to the house and I wanted to be eliminated. I wanted to give blood and hair and give whatever I had to do to be eliminated.

GR: Where were you when you received the news of the murder?

LHP: At my house.

GR: And how far from the Ramseys?

LHP: About 26 miles.

GR: So you don't live in Boulder at all?

LHP: No.

GR: Your reaction?

LHP: I just screamed and cried, I couldn't believe it.

End of video

GR: They compare me to Goebbels, the man who covered up the mass murder of half a race of people, and they accuse a woman who's already been eliminated by the cops all the way back in 1997. Who's the Goebbels here?

The couple also writes about Bill McReynolds, a former University of Colorado journalism student [sic]. The professor's wife had written a play many years ago that contained eerie parallels to JonBenet's death. Three months after the murder this guy who played Santa Claus told me how much he loved portraying the jolly old elf every Christmas for JonBenet.

Video from 2/1/97:

BM: I always say, "Where is Santa when you can't see him?" and she would say, "You're always in my heart," and so this year I asked her, "And where is JonBenet when I can't see her?" and she looked at me and I said. "Well, you know, you're always in Santa's heart."

End of video

GR: McReynolds, I should point out, was also eliminated as a suspect. The third of the Ramseys' quartet of suspects is a fellow named Jeff Merrick, who was a former employee of John Ramsey's hugely successful computer company. The Ramseys write, "He told people he would bring me and the company down to our knees. Jeff was one person who was extremely agitated with me." I don't know much about…Bob Grant, do you if Jeff Merrick's been cleared?

BG: Well, Geraldo, of course I'm not going to tell you who has or hasn't been cleared, but there isn't anything revelatory in anything that you've said or I've read so far.

GR: Okay. Rounding out the specifically named suspects, a fellow named Chris Wolfe, a former reporter for a local business paper in Boulder. John Ramsey writes that "His strange behavior before Christmas and early on the morning after Christmas raised (his girlfriend's) concern about what Wolf had done all night," adding that the woman later observed this fellow Wolfe becoming quite agitated and brooding over reports of JonBenet's death. I don't know, Larry Schiller, what do you say about the four people named by the Ramseys as potential suspects?

LS: Well all of them, you know, have been discussed in the media. I interviewed the detectives involved in this case, members of the district attorney's office extensively, and all four of these people have been cleared, and now publicly, several of them have been cleared. Bill McReynolds was cleared in December by Alex Hunter's office publicly. Jeff Merrick, I believe his DNA, his handwriting cleared him. Linda Hoffman-Pugh has been cleared by the detectives involved in the case, in personal conversations with me, I don't know if there's been a public statement. But there's nothing new here, I mean all the stuff he reads about some of these people, I'm not trying to take credit, but some of it comes right from my book. I mean, he paraphrased paragraphs from my book.

GR: At least two of the people on what John Ramsey calls his suspects list - the actual quote is "our suspect list" -- are now reportedly thinking of suing the couple, and now maybe the Death of Innocence should make its appearance on the fiction best seller list.

LS: But Geraldo, these accusations he hasn't made in his book for the first time. He made these statements in interviews with police. I mean, he has named these people in the June 1998 interviews. So this is not the first time, the police are not getting this broadside, they know about John and Patsy Ramsey's feelings towards these four people.

GR: Professor Dershowitz, they certainly have the right to attack the cops, the district attorney, the press, anyone they want.

AD: Even you, Geraldo.

GR: Even me.

AD: No, they have that right. The question is, is this a wise thing to do? If they're innocent, it's very understandable. But they can't win. They're on the horns of a dilemma. You and many other people have declared them guilty.

GR: I never declared them guilty.

AD: Geraldo, I've watched many of these shows, and by inference you've certainly suggested that they are the most logical people…

GR: I certainly did and I maintain that this evening.

AD: …and I'm not suggesting that's wrong. All I'm suggesting is there's no way out for them. If they didn't name any suspects, people would be after them saying, "Well, they claim they're innocent, who did it? Give us a suspect, give us some names." If they name suspects, "Well, they've been cleared." They're on the horns of a dilemma. I don't know whether they're innocent or guilty. I hope they're innocent, as much for the assumption of innocence, which would certainly be reaffirmed if that were the case, and I hope it for their own sake, but I don't know, and I don't know if this is a wise decision, but they surely have a right to be expressing their innocence.

GR: They certainly do. Barry Scheck, do they have a lot to lose or do they have a lot to gain by writing and publishing this book?

BS: Well, I have to be somewhat circumspect in talking about it since I've been a consultant to the police and the prosecutors and Bob could tell me about the extent of grand jury secrecy, but I take it pretty seriously. But I agree pretty much with Alan, look, they have a right to express their views, and Larry is correct as well, I mean, there's no doubt that these things have been said before, they've been investigated, they've been known, the individuals have been vetted as suspects, decisions have been reached about them, you know, they have a very, very good libel lawyer. Lin Wood is a terrific lawyer, he's represented Richard Jewell, and I'm sure he's read this book and advised them whether they have any legal liability, although I wonder about the characterization of you, you probably can take it (laughing).

LS: Gerald, what's very interesting here is they named these four suspects, and by the way, a couple of others by inference, but they don't lay out any new evidence on why these people should be suspects. They just lay out the same information the police have used, and by the way, they've gotten this information from the media and other books. They didn't get it under discovery. It isn't as if they have access to the police files. They haven't been charged. So they're dealing on speculation and rumor themselves. They don't say their own investigators have uncovered evidence the police haven't uncovered. They just lay it out. And I think it's wrong.

AD: You know, it's interesting how people take sides. I thought Schiller's book was absolutely brilliant. I mean, he really laid it out without taking sides, but Joyce Carol Oates, in a review, savaged him for not taking sides, as if somehow a journalist, looking to investigate this, can't report the facts and leave it to others. I thought it was an absolutely brilliant book, it told me everything I wanted to know.

GR: What did you think about the Simpson book?

AD: I thought the Simpson book was excellent. I didn't think it should have been written, because of the circumstances…One more point, I learned a long time ago that you can't tell very much about a person's guilt or innocence by their demeanor. I think that these inferences growing out of whether or not they did it this way or that way…I think certainly Barry Scheck and Schiller, we all agree, it's hard evidence, it's the facts…the sweaty palms approach, I think, should be discredited.

GR: Bob Grant, what about the writing of the book, just generally. I'm going to get into the specifics of the evidence they cite after the next commercial break, but I want your view on just the writing of the book.

BG: The question that arises for me, of course, is what's the motivation? Why now? Why at all? I suppose some people can understand what they're doing, but I certainly don't. And I think you hit on it earlier, it's a work of fiction. Other than what John or Patsy say specifically about what they did or saw on the day of December 26, it's fiction, like most of what's been written and said about this. The nonfiction is in the police file. Nowhere else.

GR: Any effect on the investigation itself, assuming one continues?

BG: Well, you would expect that any time there is revelation of direct evidence, and what they saw and what they heard and what they did on that morning is direct evidence, it has the potential for infecting an investigation. I haven't read the book and probably won't read the book. I've seen the excerpts. I didn't see anything that's new or particularly damaging, but I don't know whether there is in the book. I just hate the idea of criminal cases being played out in the fictional press before they are where they belong, and that's a court of law.

GR: Okay, let me take a quick pause, and then I'll go through the bill of particulars in the Ramsey indictment. They call it the Death of Innocence, and if they mean the death of JonBenet, then I agree

Geraldo formally introduces Dershowitz, Sheck, Schiller, and Grant.
Video of Governor Owens talking about the Ramseys reaping what they have sown, etc., on 10/27/99.
GR: Now, in the book, John and Patsy accuse the Colorado governor, Bill Owens, of playing politics when he made that statement last October, adding that his comments are "another example of what's wrong in America today." Now, Lawrence Schiller, is there any doubt but that Governor Owens meant, when he said, "you, we know you, we're going to get you," that he was talking about the Ramseys?

LS: I think the Governor was out of place making those statements, just like Nixon was out of place by saying that Manson was guilty before he had been tried for the crimes. The Governor had no right to make the statements. But let me say one thing. The Ramseys' book does have a lot of valuable information in it, and I want you to understand, if you believe their motivations, they do give you some insights as to why and when they did things and what their motivations are. There are a lot of factual errors, but a lot of my books have some factual errors. But they have lied by omission in their book. But I enjoyed reading it, because it gave me an insight into at least John. I feel like I know John Ramsey a lot better now.

GR: You know him a lot better than you know Patsy Ramsey?

LS: Now Patsy I can't still figure out through the book. She doesn't come across to me as being somebody who's believable or is being honest through those pages. John Ramsey does come across as being honest, as much as his lawyers will allow him to be, because obviously the book was vetted for legal reasons.

GR: Sure. Just as the governor in his statements said that there was strong evidence pointing to whoever has gotten away with murder, the Ramseys also think there's strong evidence. They write, "Patsy and I know one thing: This deranged assailant of children walks among us…undetected by the authorities." No explanation why the authorities in Boulder shortly after the homicide said, "Rest easy, there's not a homicidal maniac out there." In any case, John goes on to list seven key pieces of evidence that he believes will lead to the murder.

1. DNA evidence.
The Ramseys point to "DNA found under JonBenet's fingernails" and "DNA from the stain found on JonBenet's underwear," both of which have not been identified as far as anyone knows. Barry, what do you know about the DNA evidence to the extent that you feel comfortable talking about at all.

BS: (Laughing) Well, I don't feel too comfortable, I have to tell you.

GR: Well, say what you can, and then we'll let Larry talk.

BS: (Laughing) Well, you know what, maybe we should let Larry talk, because I think I'm covered by grand jury secrecy on this.

LS: I know Barry is in a very difficult situation, because even when the police made the presentation to the district attorney's office, and Mr. Scheck was there, and he raised some very interesting issues with the police officers, which I won't go into. But what is interesting is, if there is DNA under the fingernails, and if there is foreign DNA in a mixed stain in the pants, then do those two DNA's match, and are they able to match it? You know, is one DNA, like under the fingernail, possibly contaminated, and therefore a match to the pants is not possible. These are very crucial questions because if there is a match between the fingernail and the pants, and it's not the parents, then you have to look very seriously that there may have been another person that this child touched prior to the washing of those pants when they were previously cleaned or when the child took a bath or when she was cleaned.

GR: Okay, now I would assume, Bob Grant, that if there was foreign DNA that meant anything one way or the other, that the cops must have at some point been apprised of that. True or false?

BG: Well, I think when the truth is known about the extent of this investigation, the incredible efforts made on all law enforcement fronts, the answer to that question will be clear. Clearly, if there was incriminatory trace evidence found at the crime scene, this one or any one, that added up to identification of an individual, that was identified to a particular individual, that incriminated that individual in a crime, such as a heinous murder like this, there wouldn't be any question but that charges would be filed, and would have been by now.

GR: Okay, let me take a quick pause. The Death of Innocence is the name of the book, the so-called "unsolved story of JonBenet's murder and how its exploitation compromised the pursuit of truth." Take a break, we'll be right back.

Video of the Ramseys on WSMV-TV in Nashville talking about their upcoming book.

GR: Bob Grant, has any authority ever asked them to take a lie detector test?

BG: I don't know the answer to that question, Geraldo.

GR: Don't know or can't answer?

BG: I don't know the answer.

LS: They were asked on April 30, 1997. Patsy agreed, she even said, "I'd take a dozen of them." Her attorneys finally could not come to an agreement with the police. John Ramsey denied, he said he wouldn't take a lie detector test, he didn't believe in their accuracy.

GR: He what, he would not?

LS: He didn't believe that they were accurate. His line was, "If they were accurate, then I would take it." But when he was asked if he would, he says, "I don't believe in their accuracy so I wouldn't take it." That was in April of 1997.

GR: Okay. Let me go back to their list of the seven items. I gave you the first one, DNA from under the fingernails. The next one is:

2. The cord and duct tape.
The Ramseys write, "It is our belief that the killer brought the cord and duct tape with him, knowing that he couldn't count on finding similar material in our house." He adds that the police searched the house for more of those two items with no success. Larry?

LS: Well, number one, as of the time my book was published, in February of 1999, the remnant of the cord and the roll of duct tape hadn't been found. Now, the piece that John Ramsey ripped off of JonBenet's mouth, and there was a remnant of the, I believe, the adhesive, which proves that it was, at least, on her face, whether prior to her death or after, I don't know, was torn on both sides. So the question is, you know the Ramseys certainly didn't buy that duct tape with the intent to kill their daughter, and there is no application of that type of duct tape anywhere in the house, so you have to surmise that the duct tape was brought in for the commission of the crime and was taken out or disposed of. And you know, that is exculpatory evidence. Mr. Dershowitz and Mr. Scheck certainly would be able to tell you how they would use that if they were defending someone.

GR: Tell us, Professor.

AD: Well, of course you would use that, because you don't have to prove who else did it, and that's what's wrong with Mr. Grant's statement. He says there may not be enough evidence under the finger, for example, to prove the identify of another, but if you can show the presence of foreign DNA not attributable to another person, that might be enough. Of course, the other side can come back and say, "Well, it could have there is some other way, previously." The duct tape alone doesn't do it, but it adds to the list of possibilities, and it's a perfectly reasonable thing for them to point to.

GR: What they don't point to, as far as I know, is that the pad and pen, from the ransom note, came from the house. So did the stick, and that garotte, the flashlight.

AD: That's very incriminating, yeah.

GR: Stay tuned.

Video from 11/10/97: Linda Hoffman-Pugh on Geraldo's show, defending the R's, talking about how she thinks they are innocent, that she never saw anything wrong going on at that house; says she only saw love and kindess in that house.

GR: That's from one of the four people the Ramseys say could be a suspect in the murder of their daughter, and here she is saying she's never seen...Well, anyway, here she is a perfect character witness for the Ramseys and they're saying she's a possible suspect. Anyway, I've got to move along rapidly because there's been an amazing development in NY (talks about a program Barry Scheck is involved with). I want to get through the five more points as quickly as I can.

3. Pubic hair found on JonBenet's blanket
The Ramseys say they believe the hair doesn't match anyone in the family or anyone whom we know who ever may have slept on JonBenet's bed. John Ramsey asks if there is DNA in the public hair, does it match that found on JonBenet's clothing or under her fingernails. Larry?

LS: I erroneously reported it as a pubic hair. It's not. It's an underbody hair, an underbelly hair.

GR: So they ripped you off and you were wrong, so they republished the error.

LS: It shows they don't have the facts by discovery.

BS: Let me say this. In fairness, and trying to say something that's like a public education statement, that's neutral.

GR: Educate us.

BS: These are all good questions, because you would want very much to know whether any biological evidence under nails, or hair - you can get mitochondrial DNA from the shaft of the hair or nuclear DNA from the follicle of the hair - all these things should be pursued and must be pursued, which is not to say that they weren't pursued. But the one lesson that people should take away from this, and I don't think this is unduly critical of anyone here, is that this technology, for analyzing all of this trace evidence, which as you can see is the key to all of this, has to be handled so carefully and collected so carefully. We've learned a lot of lessons about this. We train police officers all the time about this, because if all these things do match each other, hey, that's a very big clue. Hey, if they don't match each other, then there's a certain amount of chaos here. And finally, the remarks were made before about a DNA pattern under nails, for example. Let's say that Colorado gets up to speed, and this ties into what we're going to discuss next, and gets a DNA data bank in line, where they have patterns for convicted pedophiles. You would certainly want to run this against convicted pedophiles.

GR: Absolutely. I have a 5-year-old and 7-year-old. They're bathed every single day, and to think that what they have under their fingernails might be necessarily dispositive of a homicide.

BS: You're absolutely right, so you have to be very careful in gathering it.

LS: And you have to be able to date this exculpatory evidence, like the High-Tec shoe print found near the body.

GR: That's one of the things, that's number seven, the footprint by JonBenet's body. Ramsey speaks of a kind of mildew on the floor and walls where the girl's body was found saying, "Next to JonBenet's body the killer, I believe, left a clear footprint made by the sole of a High-Tec hiking shoe. The markings are clear, and should further help identify the killer."

LS: I don't see how he can say it was the killer because, number one, there are other imprints in that dusting, there, because many other people were there at the time of the crime. And you've got to date it. It's like the palm print on the door.

GR: How many people went into that room after the body was removed by John Ramsey?

LS: I think at least eight that I know of, but the point is, none of those people had High-Tec boots, and that's been checked. But the point is, you know, even Bill McReynolds was taken down into that basement many times in his previous visits. There are other people. They even had an Easter egg hunt in that basement the previous Easter, and the kids played in that same wine cellar and looked for Easter eggs. So how do you date this evidence? Is it a transfer, like that hair? Could it have come through the washer/dryer?

GR: That's why Alan Dershowitz would suggest Alex Hunter did not indict. Right, Professor?

AD: That's right, because remember, the defendant doesn't have to date it, the prosecution has to date it. All the defendant has to do is present evidence that raises some kind of doubt.

GR: Bob, anything that sticks out here, raise your hand.

BG: Here's the point to be made about the list, and any lists like that. Those lists are thrown out in courtrooms of these United States every day. Those lists are what defense attorneys make their living on, raising issues that are allegedly exculpatory about a prosecution's case. And the prosecutor's job is to answer, to the extent that he or she can, the exculpatory evidence raised and to prove the case despite the inferences that may be laid at the foot of the defense evidence.

AD: What's different about this case, though, is that Barry Scheck and Dr. Lee were involved, and as soon as they were involved, I predicted there wouldn't be an indictment, because we have two extremely fair people who don't have an outcome in mind. They really wanted to give good judgment.

BG: That presupposes that there were unfair people already involved.

AD: Well I think prosecutors by their nature try to prosecute...

GR: Not in this case.

AD: ...and when you bring in two outsiders who don't have a stake in coming to a conclusion, who aren't running for reelection, who don't have an issue of satisfying the public, you're much, much more likely to come to a conclusion that is consistent with the Constitution.

BG: Your defense bias is showing.

AD: What I'm saying is, outsiders really do make a difference. Prosecutors prosecute. Outsiders speak the truth.

BS: Let me say one thing, and I'm sure Bob would agree with it, because I think it's really the point he's making, and that is you can't prove every case beyond all doubt. And so, yes, you have all these different kinds of clues and pieces of evidence and all investigators want to pursue them, because some of these could lead to a particular suspect and guilt, and some you can't explain and may just be noise that is cluttering up the investigation. But you may have other evidence that you could prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

GR: Okay, I have two more points, and I want to get through them.

4. The ransom note.
Ramsey writes, "An adequate amount of handwriting samples from the killer should conclusively tie him to the long and rambling note," adding, "We were not the authors," but not adding, Larry Schiller, that Patsy Ramsey has not been excluded as the author of the ransom note.

LS: You know, what's really interesting about the ransom note is when was it written. If it was written before JonBenet came home and her subsequent death, then that lends a lot of credence to the intruder theory. If it was written after her death, then you'd have to say it was written by somebody who felt comfortable…

GR: But the pad came from the house.

LS: Well, coming from the house doesn't matter, because if an intruder brought in the duct tape and the cord, he'd know there'd be pencil and paper somewhere in the house if he came in early.

GR: Could he search the house and know there was no duct tape and cord there?

LS: No, he couldn't count on there being duct tape or cord, and I'm not saying an intruder came in, I'm just giving you an argument as an amateur lawyer would. Those would be two elements that he could not be sure of would be in the house, but if he wanted to write a disguised ransom note, certainly he'd know there'd be pencil and paper.

GR: Okay,

5: The stun gun.
Based on the Ramseys' belief in Detective Lou Smit's theory that marks on JonBenet's back were made by a stun gun.

LS: Mr. Scheck can tell you whether exhuming the body will help determine whether a stun gun was used. I can't tell you that.

GR: Barry?

BS: Well, you know, actually, I can't tell you much about that, but I can tell you one thing about handwriting. A lot of us have tremendous doubts about the scientific reliability of handwriting. Now you can make a lot of inferences in this case about the circumstances of the note, whether you think it's real or a phony, and that's all fair argument, but to place too much reliance on handwriting experts when in fact, what's happening across the country is that it's being thrown out of court as being unable to pass the ??? test, that happened in McVeigh, it happened in a case we handled in New York, it's happening across the country. I just wouldn't put too much stock in handwriting analysis per se.

GR. Okay, let me say, finally, before we move on to the DNA story, that the Ramseys, to the best of my knowledge, someone correct me if I am wrong, remain the only named people under the so-called umbrella of suspicion, the only ones, the only two human beings on the face of this planet. And I don't know if they say this statement anywhere in their book. And I think Larry's right. I think, in fairness, for a well-rounded picture of this case if you really are interested, the characterization is interesting, but it is extremenly self-serving.


P.S. 6 and 7 on the Ramseys' evidence list were the palm print and the shoe print