KOA Radio Show - Monday, November 1, 1999

Governor Owens on KOA 11/1/99
Posted by jams on Nov-03-99 at 11:33 AM (EST)

MR: Governor Owens, you also candidly answered some questions for reporters about some of the reasons involved in your thought process and also made some comments that outraged trial attorneys, especially on the defense side who thought you had stepped over the line and said some things that a Governor, a high-ranking elected official shouldn't say. One other point, I talked Friday about a piece in "The Denver Post", an opinion piece by Andrew Cohen, with which I took great exception especially Andrew Cohen's comment that "I bet anyone in their position (the Ramseys) would listen to a lawyer's advice and not exactly rush to the police station to help". It's an interesting assertion--he can make that assertion. If it were me and I knew that I wasn't guilty I would rush to the police station and wouldn't want any advice from my lawyer to the contrary because the last thing on my mind in that situation having just lost a child, the last thing, would be protecting my neck.

GO: Exactly.

MR: Why in the world would I be worried about my neck if I knew someone else had done it? Regarding Andrew Cohen, he called and left a message on my voice mail over the weekend. Since I had described him as an attorney and a defense attorney giving the defense attorney's take on this, he wanted me to clarify that he is no longer a practicing attorney and in any event he was never a defense attorney. Fine I'm happy to set the record straight. I will stand, however, by my statement that Andrew Cohen is certainly speaking for those with a defense attorney mentality. Alright, that by way of preamble, your comments:

GO: Well, I wanted to make two points last week when I announced my decision in terms of the SP. The first was to walk through in some detail why I didn't think a SP would be helpful at this point. I had talked with Alex Hunter in Boulder, I had talked with the police chief, we had talked to the detectives, had met with a lot of the prosecutors. Met with other people and talked to lots of other people as well and I became convinced that to bring in a SP to start over, as it were, would be a waste of time and $ and also, of most importance, it wouldn't lead us closer to prosecuting this case. I am confident that the people working on the case today both from the Boulder DA's office as well as from the Boulder police are people who are working well together and they're trying to find the killer of JonBenet Ramsey. The second point I made was that we aren't entirely clueless in this case, that after 3 years and $2M there is substantial evidence in this case that the prosecutors have gathered, that there are suspects and then I, in response to a question in terms of what I would say to the Ramseys, I suggested that they should quit hiding behind their attorneys and their PR firm and return from Georgia and start working with us. And that's what set Andrew Cohen and a number of other defense attorneys off but I think it was the right decision and it's one that I hope will help lead us to finding out, um, bringing to justice shall we say, the killers of JonBenet Ramsey.

MR: According to this news account, after you had made your comment about John and Patsy Ramsey ought to quit hiding behind their attorneys you were asked by a reporter whether your remarks implicated the Ramseys in their little girl's death and you said, this account goes, simply "No comment."

GO: And that was correct. I'm not going to say any more than that but in fact I think that there is a lot of evidence and I'm not going to try to mislead the public and clear them in any way. I think they ought to come back from Georgia. I think they ought to drop the attorney routine. I did notice that the day after my comments, it was not the Ramseys who spoke, it was their attorneys who called me a liar. I think it's time just to--if they're innocent they're sure not acting like they are and we had a case in California where a little girl named Polly Klaas was murdered. Her father was the first suspect and he went in to the police station without attorneys and said 'Tell me what you want from me so that you can clear me and go find the killer'. They did, they cleared him, they found the killer. That's how most of us would react in a situation like that unlike what Andrew Cohen says, I wouldn't go to an attorney if I was innocent. I really wouldn't. I'd go to the police station and say 'What do you need from me so that you can not waste any more time on me so that you go after the killer?'.

MR: In talking about this late last week, I made the distinction between you as a high-ranking elected official and me or Peter Boyles or other people who give their opinions on the air. Having sifted through many facts in this case I can say, without, in my opinion, and I think objectively, violating any ethical standards that I think it's likely that the Ramseys are involved in this crime. I can't say I'm positive, I'm not but I can say it's likely. I can say that. As Governor you can't go that far, can you?

GO: I actually could and I've chosen not to. One national analyst, reminded, it was a legal analyst on one of the national networks was asked this question and he reminded the audience of the time NY Mayor Koch, had, in the middle of a trial, called for boiling the suspect in oil. That's going too far, but I actually could say more than I have without any fears. I have a right to. But what I have said is I think the Ramseys ought to help; I think that there is a lot of evidence in this case pointing at suspects and I'm hopeful someday we can bring those suspects to justice for the killing of JonBenet Ramsey.

MR: The Atlanta libel attorney hired by the Ramseys who blasted Governor Owens. Quote "Without mincing words, there is no doubt Bill Owens lied in that press conference when he stated that John and Patsy Ramsey have not cooperated with authorities and are hiding behind their lawyers." GO: I think there's a clear pattern of John and Patsy Ramsey not cooperating with either the police or the prosecution and I would very much stand behind that statement. As I said the other day, Mr. Wood is new to this case, maybe he hasn't had a chance to talk to all the other attorneys on the team, maybe he hasn't been able to be briefed by the PR firm in terms of what the Ramseys have actually been doing but the Ramseys have not, in fact, cooperated and I find that disturbing.

MR: I made the distinction, when we kicked this around last week on the air, of absolutely not cooperating and fully cooperating and making the point that there is a lot of gray area in between. When we talk about cooperation, let's put it on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being uncooperative completely and 10 being fully cooperative and I asked callers to place the Ramseys on that scale. The people who called in seemed to be gravitating around the number 2 on the cooperation scale. So yes, there's been some cooperation. The question is 'How much cooperation?'.

GO: Well you know, if you think back to almost three years ago and what happened right after that horrible tragedy and the way that the "negotiations" started on whether or not the Ramseys would talk to the prosecutors, whether they'd only accept written questions. You know, from the very first day it's been my opinion that they've not been cooperative. Now Mr. Wood, who's new to the case, again he's one of the new Ramsey attorneys, he called me a liar for saying that they have not been cooperative. Now he made the point that we had received a voicemail from John Ramsey's attorney, Hal Haddon, offering MISTER Ramsey, incidently not Mrs. Ramsey, I always find that interesting, offering John Ramsey to come and meet with me regarding whether or not I should appoint a SP. We refused that offer for the very simple reason that I thought it inappropriate for me as a Governor considering whether to change procecutors to meet with the person who is considered by many to be one of the prime suspects in this case. I think it would have been unethical for me to meet with a suspect about whether or not the prosecutor was doing a good enough job in terms of finding the killer or killers of JohBenet Ramsey. That's why we didn't meet with John Ramsey.

MR: Another question raised was 'Why didn't the prosecutors call the Ramseys to testify before the GJ?'.

GO: Well first of all I've never talked to the prosecutors about anything to do with the GJ because that is under a veil of secrecy. Secondly, so I don't know whether or not they did call but I am aware, as all of the Public Defenders will tell you, that if you call a suspect in to a GJ and that suspect is then given some of the information that you've gathered during that GJ process perhaps about that suspect. So it would have been very problematic for the prosecutors to call into the GJ the Ramseys, if in fact they didn't and I don't know whether they did or didn't, but it would have been problematic because they would have had to share evidence with the Ramseys themselves.

MR: During the week or two of deliberations that you were involved in, having enpaneled this group of experts to advise you as to whether to appoint a special prosecutor, including a former Colorado State Supreme Court Chief Justice, during that week or two of deliberations, did you learn significantly more about the case than you had known before and did that change any of your opinions about guilt or innocence in the case?

GO: Prosecutors and the police were very open with me and the group of experts that we called together, and they were all sworn to secrecy. They shared with us virtually all the evidence in the case, other than what they may or may not have found in the GJ. By some indications the GJ didn't really break much new ground in terms of evidence though again I don't know that for a fact. In going through the evidence, much of which had already been made public, some of which hasn't, it didn't change my opinion in terms of guilt or innocence.

MR: Did it solidify your opinion?

GO: Yes.

MR: And I won't press it any further than that, for obvious reasons.

Caller: Hi Mike! Hello Governor Owens! I just want to thank you for not assigning a SP to this. It would just make it appear like you were giving in to media and the liberal pinhead out there. I just was holding my breath hoping to God you wouldn't do it and you came through and I gotta give you a pat on the back for that. GO: Well, J___, thank you. What I was really trying to do is make sure I didn't get in the way of the investigation and at this point the police, the prosecutor, despite the initial problems, the police and prosecutor working well together it would have really been a waste of time and resources to start over and might have actually led to this case not progressing. So it was an easy call for me.

MR: I remember back when Coca-Cola introduced the new coke.

GO: Right, I do, too.

MR: Let's say that that wasn't a grand slam home run. Let's say it was a flop. In critiquing that after the fact one spokesman from Coca-Cola said, when asked 'Did you intentionally drop this bomb so that with all the attendant publicity, all the subsequent publicity, it would really be something that would get Coke's image and name in the public eye?' And he said 'We're not that smart and we're not that dumb.'

GO: I remember that quote.

MR: In that context, you didn't have to embellish on your statement that you weren't going to appoint a SP.

GO: That's right.

MR: You've been praised for it in some quarters and severely criticized for it in other quarters. Was it your intention to create a controversy and win some political points in being candid with your comments after the announcement? How did that evolve?

GO: Well, it really wasn't my intention though I did fully intend to discuss the case in the way I did. I wanted first of all to explain why we didn't need a SP but second, to try to tell Colorado and the world, which has basically been looking at this case and many cases through the prism of Jay Leno and some of the national tabloid press that, in fact, we have a lot of evidence, the suspects were VERY smart, and I said that at the press conference. It's not like the prosecutor and the police are dumb and are idiotic. I think THEY think they know WHO did it but in fact the killers were very smart. And so that's why I said what I said because I think Colorado needs to be reassured that what Colorado seems to think it knows, that in fact the police and the prosecutors also know. But it doesn't mean it rises to the standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I think there's a lot of evidence in this case that points at the suspects but at this point it isn't enough YET to indict if you're looking for a conviction. And I think what you really want to avoid is an acquittal a la OJ Simpson because that means five years from now if new evidence comes in you can never, because of double jeopardy, indict again.

MR: Regarding your use of the plural when you talk about 'killers'. Some people have said by saying killers that further implies that it was John and Patsy Ramsey. Putting the Ramseys aside for a moment, based on your knowledge now of the evidence is there reason to believe, that even if it wasn't John and Patsy Ramsey, the evidence points to the fact that there was more than one person involved?

GO: I think that that's correct, that the evidence that's been publicly disclosed, in most respects, points to the fact that it would take more than one person to get into this house, assuming they weren't in the house already, write that note in practice and take the time to write it again and hit JonBenet in the head, and this is all publicly known, and then strangle her and perhaps carry her around the house and do all of this which most experts think would have taken several hours, that it would take more than one person to do all of this and that's why I said 'killers'.

Caller: I'd like to begin by saying that I do not agree with the Governor. I think he did a terrible thing, tearing up the Constitution, ripping apart their civil rights and that people are going to realize that he is appealing to the lowest common denominator in people, which is vengeance. And after three years, numerous investigations they haven't been able to get enough evidence to go to court then either the case should be dropped or, ah, MR: continued.

Caller: Well, continued, of course, there's always a continuation in this kind of a case. But if he was so convinced that they're the ones then why don't he appoint that SP to lend an edge, ah, help the people up in Boulder who can't seem to do the job?

GO: You know, I don't really want vengeance in this case. I think that the guilty people are either being punished now or will be punished in the future, given my particular belief in heaven and hell. But what I do want to see is justice -- and that's why I want the case to continue,...

Caller: Oh, of course. We all want that.

GO:...and that's why I spoke out as I did. I haven't torn up the Constitution. I have a right to speak. The fact that I'm Governor hasn't taken away from me my First Amendment rights. The last time I checked when I put my hand on that Bible and swore the oath, it didn't say 'except for the First Amendment, Governor'.

Caller: But you have an image...

GO: So where do you come from thinking I can't speak out on an issue anymore than you can?

Caller: You have an image to maintain that the Governor is going to follow all the rules set down in the last 200 years when it comes to crime and punishment and that by whipping up the public's -- the froth, of vengeance like you would want people to go get a hanging rope and hang the people.

GO: No, I think B___ you're in fact whipping it up a little bit this morning. I haven't done anything of the kind. I've actually...

Caller: Oh, I'm just saying that you should, as Governor, maintain your, the job that you've done...

GO: That's your opinion of how I ought to be Governor.

Caller: Get your prosecutor, your SP, if you're so convinced that there's more to discover and not to condemn these people because I am probably one of the few people who still have an open mind to this theory of the intruder being in the house the entire day.

GO: B____, that's fine. All I'm saying is, is that as Governor...

Caller: He could of wrote that note...

GO: Wait a minute, let me talk. You talked, now let me talk.

Caller: OK, Governor, go ahead.

GO: All I said was that there is a lot of evidence in this case. That, in fact, there IS evidence pointing at suspects and then in answer to a question, I didn't state this on my own, but in answer to a question from a reporter, 'What would you say to the Ramseys?' I said what I think many people, including Governors, and perhaps Lieutenant Governors, and even citizens would think and that is 'Quit hiding behind your attorneys and get to work on trying to find your daughter's killers'. And, in my opinion, they haven't done that. When he was gassing up the jet a couple of days later to head back out of town, when Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey spent four months before they really talked to the prosecutors, when they agreed to talk through written questions, that's not the way that I think parents who want to be in fact cleared of being under suspicion should act.

Caller: OK, but you're assuming one thing and I think people should remember that under the Constitution, and the rules, people are presumed innocent...

GO: Sure they are.

Caller: People are not even required to talk to the authorities. GO: Nope, don't have to. But it doesn't mean that I can't talk about what I think about their action.

Caller: OK now, if you want to modify this a bit and say that 'OK, you don't have the right to talk to the authorities but if you don't talk to us we're going to assume that you've got something to hide.'

MR: B____, I need to take a break. But let me make this distinction...

Caller: Thank you, Governor, for this opportunity. I don't agree with you. I think you did a bad thing.

MR: Thanks for calling, B____, but let's make this distinction clear and I hope you agree on this: You are innocent until proven guilty, in a court of law. B____, jurors are supposed to be impartial. B____, I have no obligation to withhold my own conclusions on this case or any other case, this isn't a court of law. That's the distinction. It's clear to me.

Caller: I think I've got it and I don't know why you're not looking at Burke. I think that the parents are staying glued together because they're covering for their kid cuz if you know anything about sibling rivalry to have a ...

MR: R____, time out. We are not going to rehash the details of the Ramsey case here.

GO: And I wouldn't be able to comment anyway...

Caller: I know it's not a court of law but Burke...

MR: No, no, no. We're not going to talk about the details of the Ramsey case here and now. Call me some other time to do that. The Governor is here for his regular monthly visit. You can call Peter five days a week to talk about that as well; this show less frequently. But R____, that's just not what we're going to talk about now. We talked about the nature of the Governor's press conference and that's why the topic came up again. Let's go to another phone call. In Fort Collins, S_____, what's your question or comment for the Governor?

Caller: It's a pleasure to speak with you this morning. I just wanted to say that I applaud you. As the mother of two children, if something happened to my children, yes, I would be in that police station saying do what you need to do to clear me. And I think that you speak for many Coloradoans and people nationwide when you spoke out in the case and I appreciate that for one.

GO: Well S_____, thank you. That's umm, all I was trying to do was is let Colorado and I guess the country, because it's been watching this case, know that, in fact, we've got some people working on it who I have confidence in and there's a lot of evidence and so, despite the jokes, which I listen to on Leno and Letterman, we're moving on this case. I don't know if we're ever going to be able to indict anybody but I do know that there's a lot of evidence and hopefully someday we CAN bring the killers to justice.

Caller: Well Governor, let me just say again that I appreciate your guts and I think it's neat to have a politician who can actually have a voice.

MR: S____, thanks for your phone call.

Caller: Thank you.

New caller: First I want to say how much I appreciate your not appointing a SP in the Ramsey case. I guess I'd consider myself one of the liberal pinheads that the first gentleman had called--(chuckles from MR and GO)--but I agree with you. Second of all, I also want you to know that as a parent I appreciate the comments that you made because it has been extremely difficult to understand the Ramsey's behavior as a parent and the way that they acted when their daughter was so brutally murdered right there in their home. And third, I have a question. I needed to know, or just wanted to know actually, have the R's cooperated in providing DNA samples or not?

GO: You know, I'd have to ask the prosecutors but I think that they have.

Caller: They have. And everybody in their family?

GO: I think that they have.

Caller: Oh, OK.

GO: It's a very good question and it's my understanding that they have provided the DNA samples. Obviously there are ways that DNA can be gathered under court order if you don't cooperate but in this case it's my understanding that the Ramseys did allow for DNA samples to be taken from them and from their family.

Caller: Terrific. Well, you're doing a great job with this and I really enjoyed listening to the comments and I thought as a representative of Colorado I'm glad that you stepped up and said what you did.

GO: Thanks N____!

MR: N____, thanks for your phone call.

Caller: You bet...

MR: In Boulder, J___, what's your comment or question for the Governor?

Caller: Well I have mixed feelings that making your announcement calling the Ramseys suspects...

GO: Didn't do that...

Caller: Well, it says, I mean the front page of the papers 'Owens calls Ramseys suspects'...

GO: I don't think it did, but um, I didn't see that front page, J___...

MR: What front page of what paper?

Caller: It's in the papers, it says, you know the papers...

GO: What subject line?

MR: J___, J___ let's be precise. What page...

Caller: The 'Camera' and 'The Rocky Mountain News' and the 'Denver Post'...front page of the 'Denver Post'...

MR: I read the headlines from both the Rocky and the 'Denver Post' on the air. Neither of those papers said what you said the Governor said.

Caller: Well let's see how many other people saw what I saw because...anyways it looks to me like this is a 'Wanted Dead or Alive' poster that you've sent around the world and, you know, my sense is if something happens to the Ramseys, if some angry mother in Atlanta sees Patsy Ramsey in a grocery store and shoots her dead because of your comments their blood will be on your hands. We'll also have an unsolved case.

GO: Well, not necessarily, they might solve that one very quickly.

Caller: You mean by shooting them?

GO: Oh, well I thought you meant unsolved from that, from the assassin's...

Caller: This case is not going to be solved. We have the Sid Wells case here in Boulder has been sitting on the shelf for fifteen years. The District Attorney has received a warrant from the police, he hasn't signed it, he'll never sign this and he'll never take this to trial. This'll never be solved.

GO: Can't speak to Sid Wells. The last thing I saw was they were looking for the gentleman who has been a suspect for a long time, had matched some DNA and just can't find the guy. That's what I had read about Sid Wells in the last three or four weeks.

Caller: The warrant's signed; the District Attorney will not sign the warrant.

MR: J___, we digress. One of the points I made in talking about this last week was I appreciated the precision with which the Governor chose his words, pushing the envelope but not breaking it. If J___...

Caller: That's a con...

MR: If J___, if J___, your assertion was correct, which it ISN'T, and if the Governor had said John and Patsy Ramsey did it, then you'd be right and...

Caller: Oh yes he did! Oh yes he did. For all practical purposes he did. Come on...

MR: There's a big difference between 'all practical purposes' and saying it and that's why I characterize what the Governor did as pushing the envelope. You're exaggerating, J___, to make your point and as such...

Caller: No I'm not and everybody knows that. You're sounding like an idiot.

MR: J___, J___, you started out by...

Caller: You sound like an idiot.

MR: Perhaps so. We'll let the people listening judge. You started out by making an assertion, an assertion about what the headline said in the 'Rocky Mountain News' and the 'Denver Post'...

Caller: ...in the 'Denver Post'...

MR: ...and that assertion is incorrect, J___, so let's just deal with that to begin with. What you said isn't true. What you said isn't TRUE. The headlines of those papers did not...

Caller: C'mon...

MR: Save me the 'C'mon' stuff. I'll tell you what. J___, do you have a favorite charity?

Caller: Look, just stuff it, Mike. Your lie...

MR: J___, do you have a favorite charity? I imagine you're not going to answer so I'll proceed as if you did. I'll assume you have a favorite charity. J___, I'll contribute a thousand dollars to your favorite charity if you'll agree to contribute a thousand dollars to my favorite charity and all you have to do is produce the 'Rocky Mountain News' and the 'Denver Post' headline that says what you asserted a moment ago those headlines say. J___, are you up to that challenge?

Caller: I don't have a thousand dollars...Why don't you have JCOR put it up?

MR: I'll put up a thousand dollars, J___, and you only put up a hundred dollars. I'm giving you ten to one odds. Do you a hundred dollars, J___?...for a charity of your choice.

Caller: A dollar. I have a dollar. I can afford a dollar. But all people have to do is read the paper...

MR: OK, I'll take your bet. When are you coming down here?

Caller: Coming down there? Christ's sake, pick up a newspaper...

MR: Watch your language. Alright, let's do this. Matt, would you do me a favor please? Would you go to our newspaper morgue and get the 'Rocky Mountain News' and 'Denver Post' headlines on that date? Since J___ you're too big a cheapskate to put your money where your mouth is we won't bother, I won't even put you at risk for so much as a dollar but we will read the headlines on the air from both of those papers and see what they have to say.

MR: Here's the 'Denver Post': "Owens Challenges Ramseys" -- subhead "Parents Told to Quit Hiding, Prosecutor Says Trail Not Cold". 'Rocky Mountain News: "Stern Owens Puts Ramseys on Notice" -- subhead "Quit Hiding and Help Find JonBenet's Killers Governor Says". Neither paper's headline says Governor Owens calls Ramseys guilty or suspects. And the point I made I'll reiterate I think the Governor pushed the envelope but didn't break it.

GO: But you can still give a thousand dollars to your favorite charity.

MR: Well I probably will give more than that to any number of my favorite charities. I wanted J___ to give a thousand dollars to my favorite charity. So J___, if your conscience is bothering you, you can send a check to...

GO: "Step Thirteen"

MR: "Step Thirteen" in my behalf or even ten bucks, which was my last offer to J___. Send 'em ten bucks. Or J___, produce the headline from the newspaper that you were talking about. I doubt that he would. You'll notice, too, that J___said, when he started, "I have mixed emotions"...

GO: They weren't very mixed.

MR: Which was kind of a lie to begin with but that's the way they ingratiate themselves.