Hardball w/Hunter 4/26/00

Posted by LovelyPigeon on Apr-27-00 at 04:19 PM (EST)

(Credit goes to LizzieB at JW for typing this transcript. Transcripts are hard work.)

Hardball with Chris Matthews
Interview with Alex Hunter

CM: . . . the news here if you can comment, sir, what is this about the Ramseys not wanting to take a lie detector test and saying that they were never asked to take it, is that accurate?

AH: No, it is not accurate. They were asked, although part of the asking was in the form of a hypothetical question. John was asked and this Thomas, Detective Thomas, put kind of a confusing, hypothetical question to Patsy. But, you know, I think that a monkey would have understood the question. So they were asked. Now, you know, the decision that was reported this morning by the Ramseys through their attorney that they would not take a polygraph under the FBI involvement is disappointing to all of us, because it was John Ramsey and Patsy Ramsey who made a big deal about wanting to take it. They set some conditions: in Atlanta, independent polygraph operator, make the results public, and Chief Beckner and I accepted that. So you know, to now say that the FBI is not independent raises some questions about the genuineness of the proposal because, you know, the FBI probably has the best polygraphers. There are 80 across the country. We indicated that, you know, they could draw one from a pool. We don't care who it is. What we like about the FBI is their protocol, the quality control, and their supervision. But that, apparently for the time being . . . you know, the offer is open, but it's basically been rejected.

CM: In that interview on the Today Show, Mr. Ramsey makes the point that he has been earnestly trying to find the real killer. In your four years of experience with these two people, have you ever gotten the sense that they were breathing over your shoulder urging you on, pushing you to investigate this case harder?

AH: Well, you know, they weren't pounding at the front door like Mr. Klaas was, and of course that's what the American public would like because that's, I think, generally how they feel they would act if they were faced with a similar circumstance, but . . .

CM: Wouldn't you?

AH: And I would. But I think, in fairness, they have to follow the advice of their lawyers. They had a pile of lawyers. They can have as many as they want, as you know, and so I think we have to be careful to infer that because, you know, they weren't pounding on the front door that that means something -- to be fair.

CM: Let's talk about a thing that's bothering you and it bothered me, probably, too. One of your detectives out there, Steve Thomas, who was working on the case, has written a book recently on the investigation and why he says it hasn't been solved: "When the police botched the crime scene, they damaged the Ramsey case. When the DA's office started making deals, they lost it. It was institutional idiocy, and in my opinion, there are several people in Boulder who are going to have to beg their way into heaven after this one." We can skip the heaven and hell part there, but let's go back to the world we live on. What do you think of that guy's book?

AH: Well, I think it stinks. I guess he'll have a bag of gold to buy his way into heaven. You know, he's put a butcher knife into this investigation. You're a former police officer.

CM: (Laughing) Well, briefly, at least.

AH: Well, briefly. But you know, you gained some insights like we all do, little pieces here and there. I mean, he's peddling the case file. The citizens of Boulder have spent $2 million plus on this case. It's not his case.

CM: If he had written an adulatory book saying you're the best thing since sliced bread, would you have a problem with this book?

AH: No, because he wouldn't be divulging confidential information. You know, when you start talking about what a witness said, you know there's one place in the book - I don't even want to get into it in detail - where a witness, a critical witness in the case, begs him not to make a disclosure of some very personal information. He lays it out in the book. He criticizes his colleagues about the fact that they botched the early hours which I think, you know, I can make another argument. You know, you don't change evidence. There may be a technical contamination when the body's brought upstairs but, you know, first of all, you pick up in this book his investigative techniques, because the way he writes the book reflects that technique. This is a homicide detective who'd never had a homicide case, and his supervisor had never had a homicide case. Fortunately, believe it or not, there are some excellent officers - he was not the lead detective - that have worked this case, have busted their gut, have put in the sweat, have dropped the tears, who he puts the knife to in the book. And you can see this man sitting down with this guy Davis, who's the writer, and I can hear Davis saying to him, you have to add color here, you have to add color there.

CM: This has . . . I know this hurts your feelings and it hurts your image. Certainly, I would fight it too. But how has it hurt the investigation?

AH: Yeah, but let me say something. I'm on this show not because my butt feels raw or my feelings are hurt. I'm on this show because this detective is getting, you know, kissed by ABC. He goes on four mornings. They have a little chat with him.


AH: And the fact is that what has happened here - I mean it's one, the book is done, and he'll make a million dollars. I'm hoping that the orphans and widows of slain police officers at the Boulder Police Department are not going to be out on the front stoop with a cup waiting for his contribution. But I'm here because I want us to learn another lesson from this case. There are some wonderful lessons, some hard lessons in this case, and one of them is, we cannot have a detective breach the public trust that I think he or she has when they are compiling confidential information, interviewing witnesses, you know, building the file on behalf of the people. That's why I'm here. I'm not here to say he's a bad guy because he doesn't like me. You know, this guy is not relevant to this case. He's been gone for 18 months, he had nothing to do with the grand jury investigation. He's a cop that, you know, was basically a patrol officer and did a little narcotics work.

CM: Yeah, but you know, he exploited a ready market out there. The reason he will make any money he makes is that there are a lot of people in this country - I won't buy the book because I wouldn't know if it's true or not, and you make it sound like it probably isn't - but let me tell you there're are a lot of people who've watched this case for four years who've seen this wealthy couple who seem to be treated with kid gloves and they wonder, "How long can this case go on?" You, on the other hand, have been in the DA's job for all these years and you probably know that some cases aren't going to be solved, that the law isn't perfect. What should we know from your point of view, without giving away the case, that we should know about this case that makes us wrong when we say, "Where the hell's this thing going?"

AH: You know it really is interesting - in the early days of this case, 30 days out, 60, 90 days out, the public and the media were crying about, "How come this case isn't solved?" And you know, we would all shake our heads, and you know as a former police officer that cases don't get solved in an hour like they do in some of the shows people watch. And I don't mean to talk down because I like those shows, and I'm always amazed how they can pack it in in an hour.

CM: Well, one reason they work is because people see people on Perry Mason or the Defenders or the more recent shows and they see people who when they're guilty, act guilty, and then when they see the Ramseys they see people who aren't seemingly natural and spontaneous in the way they answer questions, in the way a fast-talking person who knows all his facts and knows the truth would talk. I don't know whether people think they're guilty, but they don't seem to come across as people who are happy with spontaneity, let's put it that way.

AH: Well, you know, I think there's . . . let me finish that other question now. The thing that is important for the public to understand is these cases, and they are everywhere, sometimes take five, ten years. Every police chief, every DA in a little jurisdiction like mine - I can tick off cases that have been solved after four years, eight years. Now that's not to say that we're going to get there in this case, because I'm not here also to . . . I don't want to give great hope. But what I will say is that this case is being worked, deserves to be worked . . .

CM: How many hours a week, man hours or person hours, are going into this case?

AH: Probably from my office - now you remember, I brought in a special grand jury guy. I have two prosecutors on loan. I don't have anybody in my office other than myself. We're probably, I'm just guessing, putting in 30 hours a week. You know, this case is in kind of what I would call the final stages. Next week we're going to be meeting with the FBI to look at some final work that's been done on hair and fiber.

CM: Yeah.

AH: You know, there's 50,000 pages in this case. There are hundreds of exhibits. There are hundreds of specialists from around - I don't want to overstate this - we have specialists from outside of the country that have been working on this case.

CM: Are you hopeful?

AH: I'm hopeful.

CM: And you've only got, what, a year left of your term? How much term do you have left?

AH: Only until the end of the year, but I'm not . . .

CM: So can you crack it in your term?

AH: I don't know. Probably not.

CM: Well then who will have to crack it?

AH: Well, remember that we've got people like Henry Lee and Barry Scheck and we've got, fortunately, in the beginning, one of the better decisions I made was to bring in four metropolitan DA's because I was getting beaten up because I was a, you know, big fish, small pond kind of thing.

CM: I got you.

AH: So I brought in these guys and blunted that criticism. They are all running for re-election. They are all committed. They are all invested. I've got two crackerjack trial lawyers who are coming . . .

CM: We're going to have to bring this up again. Please come back, Mr. Hunter, and thank you very much for coming on the show.

AH: (Laughing) Have we done our whole half-hour?

CM: Okay, that was Mr. Alex Hunter, the DA in Boulder County.