May 24, 2000, Wednesday

: Does Passing a Lie Detector Test Take Suspicion off of John and Patsy Ramsey?

GUESTS: Darnay Hoffman, Jeralyn Merritt


ZAHN: On the investigative EDGE tonight, the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. The case just got a bit stranger. Today John and Patsy Ramsey released the results of their private lie-detector tests, and according to the results, they're innocent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - May 24, 2000)

PATSY RAMSEY: What was I thinking? I had JonBenet's face in my mind from the moment I went into that room. And I just kept saying, "This is for you, honey, because we're going to find out who did this. And whatever I have to do, I will do."

JOHN RAMSEY: We want the killer of our daughter found. The only thing we know to do now is to appeal to the public and say, "Look, we've done everything we can that we know we can do. You need to realize there is a killer of children that walks among us. It's not Patsy, and it's not I. Let's get on with finding the killer." That is our single and only objective in doing any of this.

ZAHN: Will the new twist in this murder case help find the killer of the young beauty queen or add to the suspicion surrounding her parents?

Joining me from Denver, defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt. And here in New York with me, attorney Darnay Hoffman.

Good to see the two of you back.


ZAHN: All right, Jeralyn, the Ramseys made it quite clear what they set out to do today, and that was to convince the public that there was a killer loose, the killer of their daughter. Did they succeed?

MERRITT: Well, I think they certainly did to some extent. Certainly, they helped move the needle back to "Who committed this crime?" as opposed to "The Ramseys did it." The problem is, if the Ramseys didn't do it, then there is a killer loose. The police have focused on the Ramseys to the exclusion of other people since the beginning of the investigation. And the police's reaction yesterday, saying that they weren't going to put any weight on the lie-detector tests before they even knew who conducted them, gives you an indication that the police aren't really interested in finding this child's killer.

ZAHN: Do you believe that, Darnay?

DARNAY HOFFMAN, ATTORNEY: Yes, I do. However, I think there's a problem with today's press conference, which is I think it's come too late in the case. I think that the Ramseys are very much like the Clintons, and I would say that I think that most people, whether this is good or bad, have made up their mind with respect to this case. And so I don't know how many people actually changed their minds with respect to what was going on today.

There's no question that I think the Ramseys don't face any legal down side from this. I don't think they'll ever be prosecuted. And consequently, I don't see how they can lose in a case like this. However, I do feel that the Ramseys still do not give the impression of being parents that are grieving.

ZAHN: I thought one of the more interesting parts of the news conference today was when Lyn Wood, the Ramseys' attorney, had this to say about if the polygraph test had come back negative, he would not have shared the results with the public. Here's what he had to say.


LYN WOOD, RAMSEY ATTORNEY: If they had failed the lie-detector test, would you not agree there would have been a demand by the public to charge them because of the cry of the public and the media would be "Guilty!" Shouldn't we, now that they've passed the test, from the foremost polygraph examiners in the country, be equally fair and say that the results show innocence?

ZAHN: So Jeralyn, the question I have for you -- would there have been a different result if the Boulder DA had administered this test or the police department locally or the FBI, along with the Boulder police department?

MERRITT: I don't think there would have been a different result in terms of whether the Ramseys would have passed or failed, although that clearly is determined by the skill of the examiner and the phraseology used in the questions. But I think that -- the Boulder police clearly should to review the examination results, to view the videotapes and the audiotapes that these tests were conducted under and to look at Mr. Baxter's (ph) analysis of the findings.

I don't see how it hurts them, and these are recognized experts in the field, very prominent. And if the Boulder police are interested in finding the killer, what harm could it do? And I think the public deserves to know that the police are going to continue to investigate a crime where the parents have been excluded by a polygraph, even though it's not admissible in court.

ZAHN: Well, let me ask you this, Darnay, because you no doubt know there are people out there suggesting that because the Ramseys set this up and this was not done with the FBI that perhaps the results are compromised.

HOFFMAN: They might be, but I do have to say I agree with Jeralyn with one respect. Already $2 million of taxpayers' money has been spent on investigating this case. The Ramseys have gone to a good deal of their own expense. This is basically a free ride for the police. It certainly isn't going to hurt them to look at these results. And I do think they should treat the experts in question a bit more respectfully than just simply dismissing the results because they were brought into the case by the Ramseys. I think that part of the problem in this case is that the police have kept out people who are really highly qualified to help with respect to some of the forensic evidence.

ZAHN: Are you bothered by the fact that the Ramseys did not take urine tests, which is so often the case with these tests?

HOFFMAN: See, I haven't seen the protocol. However, if I had been the Ramseys, I would have wanted to at least eliminate that as a question mark and have complied in areas where you know there's going to be criticism if you don't, in fact, go along with established protocol.

ZAHN: Why did they refuse...

MERRITT: But that's...

ZAHN: ... to do that, Jeralyn? And does that make them look bad?

MERRITT: No, it doesn't. And the polygraph expert today fully explained this issue, and he said there is no known drug that would have affected the polygraph results because of the way the tests were conducted and because the questions that were asked, between the pre-test and the test, were questions that were designed to elicit an emotional response, and you couldn't possibly fake it both ways. And there is no drug that can suppress an emotional reaction at will and then show one at will to a different question. So a drug would not have made a difference.

ZAHN: Of course, the -- the allegation is -- and of course, Lord knows, millions of people in America are on Prozac, but that's what the allegation is, that both the Ramseys are on Prozac.

HOFFMAN: Well, the point is, I thought the Ramseys did a very good job of revealing the fact that there had been inconclusive results, which I think was absolutely proper. And it's just a shame that they left this door open, so to speak, so that people who, quite frankly, want to question the results of this exam can do it by simply challenging the protocol, particularly with respect to the urinalysis.

There may be a lot of indications that drugs cannot change polygraph readings or whatever, but at the same time, why leave this open? They went to a great deal of expense to do it, and they -- they know that they have to basically try harder than almost any other suspect in a case like this because there's so much negative publicity around the case.


MERRITT: Paula, the FBI doesn't even give a drug test before it does a polygraph exam. And Lyn Wood today said that he asked the FBI if that's their usual protocol. They said no. The idea of a drug test was strictly that of the Boulder police, and it is not warranted.

ZAHN: Very quickly, in closing, Darnay...


ZAHN: ... what was the -- how critical is this inconclusive test? What, five tests were administered and...

HOFFMAN: I don't think it's...

ZAHN: ... one of the five came back inconclusive?

HOFFMAN: ... critical because -- but what's interesting is that you notice that whenever Patsy submits to tests, like handwriting and whatever, she has to do it more than once, apparently. She's never been able to cleanly take either a handwriting test or a polygraph and not have to do it more than once.

ZAHN: Does that make you less likely to buy the -- the results of the polygraph...

HOFFMAN: It's just simply...

ZAHN: ... test today?

HOFFMAN: She seems to have a problem with this. I don't know what it is.

ZAHN: All right, Jeralyn Merritt, Darnay, thank you both for coming by tonight- -


ZAHN: ... with your perspectives.