Catherine Crier Live: March 28, 2001

Catherine Crier - Host
Darnay Hoffman - Attorney
Scott Robinson - Attorney

Catherine Crier: It's been nearly five years since six year old beauty queen, JonBenet Ramsey was found beaten and strangled in her parents home. Yet the murderer is still at large.

Now comes word that the Ramsey's are planning to sue the former lead investigator in the case, Steve Thomas. They claim that Steve Thomas liable Patsy Ramsey by saying that she killed JonBenet. But the legal system isn't the only way that the Ramsey's are speaking out. This week they gave an interview to the National Enquirer.

Joining me for today's crime story segment are Scott Robinson, trial attorney from Denver Co., and here in studio Darnay Hoffman, lawyer for the Ramsey's former housekeeper, Linda Hoffman-P, and she's suing the Ramsey's because she claims that they implicate her.

Welcome to you both.

Just before we went on, during the commercial break Darnay, you were talking about an interesting development. You have basically sued in Co. to remove your client, the former housekeep, from the Grand Jury secrecy rules. Explain what the implications of a favorable ruling would be.

Darnay Hoffman : Well, Judge Wiley Daniel is the Federal Judge who is hearing the case. There was a motion to dismiss by the County Attorney saying that in fact there is no constitutional violation in having over a hundred people that have given testimony before the GJ, have their lips permanently sealed. And, apparently in Co. it's one of the few States that has a GJ secrecy law with respect to witnesses. Now, if this law is declared unconstitutional it would mean that a hundred people could begin telling the newspapers and the rest of the world exactly what they were talking about in the GJ, and you can put it together as a composite, and I think it will break the wide open as far as…

Catherine Crier: Really?

Darnay Hoffman: Oh, Absolutely. First of all, there's a serious question as to why there was never an attempt to indict anybody in this particular case. Alex Hunter brought these hundred people before the GJ knowing full well that if he didn't allow the GJ to indict THAT would create a permanent ban, almost a radioactivity around their testimony. Now that could come out, and it may be only be a couple of months before the Judge rules that this law is unconstitutional, and it look like he's going to do that.

Catherine Crier: Alright, and you have obviously interviewed your client on more than one occasion, would you expect there to be revelations out of her mouth?

Darnay Hoffman: Bombshell! Absolute bombshell revelation, and it will implicate Alex Hunter in a way extremely unfavorable to him professionally based on her experience , which… she gave testimony for a whole day in front of the GJ, and what she has to say about the kinds of questions that she was asked, umm also the attitude of the Grand Jurors and everything else that went on there.. Absolutely a bombshell revelation.

Catherine Crier: Ok, let me turn to Scott, I was a bit surprised to see despite the quoting of the media by the Ramseys.. good technique or not, that they would go to the National Enquirer, I even read how Patsy gave the reporter a big hug and promptly served St. Patty's day cookies to the reporter, why the National Enquirer, why now?

Scott Robinson : What next? I mean this is a case that has been rife with exotic, bizarre, happenings from the very start and this is just another twist. Uh, the Ramseys have been busy selling their book, busy selling their libel suits, uh, just as Mr. Hoffman is busy selling his. And what we have here is a situation where anybody that writes a book about the case can expect to be sued and that includes Thomas, and anybody who thinks that the Ramseys would not go so far as to talk to the National Enquirer or anything else equally aberrant, well, we now know that that's not true.

Catherine Crier: Well, what about some of the information that came out? Because, for two and a half years, we heard nothing about Burke even though there is a question as to whether or not he was awake during this 911 phone call, the parents now tell the National Enquirer, "we didn't know he was awake" until he testified before the grand jury, and we find out in this latest interview that apparently he was up and running around at the time. There are some changes in their testimony.

Scott Robinson: Well, it makes great tabloid headlines, but in reality, the information relating to Burke has been known by people close to the case for a long, long time. Our grand jury secrecy is sometimes akin to a joke because what some of the witnesses have said has already leaked to a number individuals who are close to the case. And if there is one thing I would agree with, with Mr. Hoffman, is probably the only thing that relates to the Ramsey case that I would agree with him on, uh I believe that the due to the United States Supreme Court Case Butterworth v. Smith that was decided in 1990, that Colorado's uh grand jury secrecy law is about to be held unconstitutional.

Catherine Crier: And do you expect then that there will be a lot of developments as a result, certainly a lot of headlines?

Scott Robinson: Lots of talk. Hey, we're going to have witnesses on every corner giving us interviews, at this point, all I can say about it is, it's going to be a proliferation of speaking by a number of grand jury witnesses who hopefully can remember what it is they actually said and not put a spin on it for the media.

Catherine Crier: Well, since we won't get our hands on the transcripts, they can say what they wanna say. Let me put up a graphic from that interview in The National Enquirer, and I wanna ask you about it Darnay in which John Ramsey says "That's one of the risks you have with a child with a traumatic experience like that. They keep a lot inside and they don't really start thinking about it until they get to be about 40 years old and that's when it hurts. He seems to be describing and elsewhere in the article Burke being tremendously traumatized by all of this. Certainly there are still those who want to point the finger at Burke. Are there things about the child and his involvement that we don't know.

Darnay Hoffman: Well, there may very well be, however, you must never forget the fact that if the parents were protecting Burke, they would have never allowed a three day interview that was videotaped by professional investigators. Uh that was done I think in the summer of 98 so clearly, they didn't think Burke was going to give anything up that would either incriminate them or incriminate him, and they were under no obligation, they did it voluntarily and then of course he appeared before the grand jury. The interesting thing about the interview is that the fact that Patsy finally said that she had actually considered John as a possible child molester for at least a few minutes. And that one of the reasons why she didn't think that John could have molested JonBenet was because her mother, Nedra, JonBenet's grandmother had actually uh, slept in the same room with um, JonBenet at a time when the mother was out of the house. Which is not a ringing endorsement of your husband is simply the only reason you didn't molest your daughter was simply because the grandmother was there as a sentry. So its very interesting. I think there are cracks beginning to show, I think there's an indication that maybe Burke has more to say, that John is almost foreshadowing that, meaning that as Burke gets older, he's going to want to speak out, there may be a great deal of anger, Burke may have his own opinions, and his theories about what happened. Remember the thing is why did Burke pretend to be asleep? You would think that he'd have enough confidence in his parents to actually get up and find out what was going on, and certainly not to be left there by himself and ..

Catherine Crier: Yeah, and if they're telling the truth and he didn't speak up until he got into the grand jury..

Darnay Hoffman: Worse, they've never talked to him about it. And apparently Burke has never felt comfortable enough to actually approach his parents to say, "Mom, Dad, what happened? Uh, I mean what is this all about? Uh, apparently that has never gone on so there's something here about the parent/child relationship here that I think is suspect.

Catherine Crier: Well, real quickly Scott, what about the lawsuit against the detective, that seems to open a lot of doors, there's a lot of discovery that can go on if you voluntarily walk into a civil court.

Scott Robinson: Well, I don't think there's any doubt about it and one of the interesting sidelines of all this is if the Hoffmann-Pugh and Wolf libel suits that are in Atlanta actually get past summary judgement stage and if the Ramseys case against, uh, Thomas gets past that same stage, we may be having a race to see who has the first trial to expose for the first time what really happened on December 26, 1996. Very exciting.

Catherine Crier: All right, well I'll tell you, we'll be there. Scott Robinson, Darnay Hoffman, thank you both very much.