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Larry King Live

Boulder County DA Defends Investigation Into JonBenet Ramsey Murder

Aired March 30, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Boulder DA Alex Hunter talks live for the first time about why there was no indictment in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, and we'll take your calls.

But first, an exclusive with the most famous Cuban-American in the world. Gloria Estefan speaks out on the fate of Elian Gonzalez, and responding to her, Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We're going to begin in the first portion tonight discussing the Elian Gonzalez matter. We will do a major show on it probably Tuesday night, when this thing could come to a full head. The deadline for revocation of the custody status of Elian has been extended from 9:00 a.m. tomorrow to 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.

It's great to have Gloria Estefan kick this off for us.

Where do you stand on all of this, Gloria? We haven't heard your opinion.

GLORIA ESTEFAN, MUSICIAN: Well, I've been asked quite a bit about this, and I have spoken about it, never on such a huge show like yours, Larry. But I think the main issue for us is that Elian get his day in court. We really need for his story to be told and for this constant threatening that he may be in and out, in and out, to cease.

I think that they gave him the appeal on May 8th, and we would really like to see him here for the appeal. And now that Castro has announced that the father will be able to come here, it will be wonderful, because in that five- to six-week period there's a great opportunity, for along with psychologists and people that can help them get this together, for this boy get to know his father once again. And that way, whatever the decision of the court is, at least he won't be just yanked out of the home and taken away. He would have a transition period to get to know his family.

KING: Why won't the defense -- and I guess you've talked to them about this -- agree to sign a -- that they will not -- that will obey the law when it's finally decided? What do they have against such a stipulation?

ESTEFAN: Well, what they're asking them to sign is a type of blank check. They will definitely sign something saying that they will follow the law, and they will not barricade the boy or take him away or anything of this nature. But the INS has not given any type of stipulation as to how or when this could happen, and they're afraid to just sign something that may be detrimental to the boy in the way that it's handled. They really want some more -- definite, more details about how this is to be, and that's the only reason they haven't signed this.

KING: You've spent a lot of your life in Miami since coming from Cuba. You know Janet Reno. I think you've even spoken to Janet Reno about this, and Janet Reno used to get 95 percent of the vote in the Cuban community in Miami. She was one of the more popular DAs ever. What did you and her talk about

ESTEFAN: Well, she was kind enough to answer my call right away, and I feel honored that she did so. I voiced all of my concerns to her, and she listened very kindly and very patiently. Obviously, I'm not going to divulge the private side of the conversation, but I think that it was important for me to let her know as a Cuban-American that we uphold the laws of this country and we want to go through the process, but that this is a small boy, that his situation has so many mitigating circumstances. He's traumatized. And the INS at this point has not appointed a psychologist to see him. They may not believe the psychologist that he's seen here or even the ones that have seen him that have been on television already. But we urge them to do a psychological profile on the boy and see how traumatic these events have really been to him.

KING: Both George W. Bush, Congressman Jackson, and Al Gore both say, let it play its course, wait its turn, let it go the full extent. You disagree?

REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: Well, not totally do I disagree with that, but let me say it's really an honor to be on the same program with Gloria Estefan...

ESTEFAN: Thank you so much.

JACKSON: ... who has an outstanding reputation for political activism and also standing up for what she believes to be right. I'm indeed honored to be on the program with you as well, Larry.

ESTEFAN: Thank you.

JACKSON: The issue, Gloria, at least from my perspective, is not whether or not Elian needs a psychological evaluation. It is clear that a 6-year-old child is not adult enough or mature enough to make adult decisions or to make those determinations.

What is clear is that Reverend Joan Brown Campbell, as well as INS officials, went to Cuba. They interviewed his father. They interviewed relatives. They interviewed friends. And they determined that his father is a fit father and not an unfit father, which has been the historical precedence for supporting -- reuniting children with members of their family. KING: In other words, there is no -- if the father is fit, that's all that counts: not where he lives or where he chooses to live?

JACKSON: That's correct. And so there are really three dimensions, I believe, Larry, to in this issue, which makes it immensely complicated, even for those of us who are elected officials. There is the dimension of nature. There is the dimension of law. And there is the dimension of religion and morality.

My wife and I just recently had a baby, just two weeks ago, and there's nothing that will ever come between me and my daughter or my wife and our child, not a government, not the U.S. government, not the Cuban government, not communism and not capitalism. And so beyond ideology, there is this need and this desire to unite a father with his child, beyond the Cuban politics of Cuba itself.

KING: Gloria, it would be hard to argue with that, wouldn't it?

ESTEFAN: It's very hard to argue. And I totally agree with you. And that brings the question to mind, after being invited repeatedly by the U.S. government, why has this father not come?

I agree totally with you. If it was me that was in his position and the government told me I couldn't come, I would be on the next raft myself. As you just said, there is nothing that could separate you from that child. So you have to wonder why this father has chosen not to be with his son during this traumatic situation.

And had he been there at the beginning, this would have been resolved right away. He would have gone home with his father. But that has not been the case.

The people that saw him in Cuba were two people that work under -- they don't work for the Castro government, but they have to work within the Castro government and have relations with them every day.

I don't believe in -- I know that the American public doesn't really know the extent of this, but no one is free to speak their mind in Cuba. So anyone that they may have interviewed on Cuban soil, it's really impossible to get a straight answer from them.

KING: Now that Castro is letting him come, do you think this will help resolve it, Congressman?

JACKSON: Well, I think it certainly has changed the political dynamic, certainly here in Washington, but I think it should also change the dynamic in Florida as well. It's very unfortunate that Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush have further complicated it by not showing the kind of leadership necessary on this issue.

This should not be a political issue. This should be principle.

KING: They should both not be heard on it?

JACKSON: Well, the fifth commandment of the Ten Commandments is very, very clear, that you should honor your mother and your father. And unfortunately, Elian's mother is deceased. Who is left is his father, and he should have the opportunity to honor his father. It does not say honor your aunts and your nephews and your nieces, or politicians or those of us...

KING: Just so I get this straight, because we hope both of you can come back Tuesday, and we're going to do a major show on this.

As I gather from listening to you, Gloria, you're not saying he should stay. You just want a correct resolution of this, right?

ESTEFAN: We think he should have his day in court and have his story be heard, have all the details out and really know what's going on. As we mentioned, it's a very curious thing that his father hasn't been involved in this process.

KING: But you want a correct resolution.

ESTEFAN: We would welcome him. We would welcome his father here and have transition be good. If Elian -- if the court decides Elian has to go back, even though the boy has repeatedly stated he does not want to go back to Cuba or to his father, if he were to change his mind, then at least the father would be here in a transitional period that would make it easier for the child, because you're right, Mr. Jackson, the primary concern of all of us is this child. And definitely...

KING: Nothing counts more than the kid.

JACKSON: Gloria, would you at least agree that it should be settled under federal law?

ESTEFAN: Definitely, under federal law, I agree. But the INS really doesn't need to be -- if the court has decided to give them an appeal on May 8, it would be wonderful if the INS would just let this process happen.

JACKSON: Thanks you both very much. We look forward to seeing both of you again on this.

Thanks, Jesse.

JACKSON: See you later.

KING: Thanks, Gloria. Great seeing you.

ESTEFAN: Thanks a lot, likewise.

KING: Gloria Estefan and Representative Jesse Jackson Jr.

And DA Alex Hunter is next. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET RENO, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This case has been heartbreaking for everybody involved. But we believe that the law is clear. The father must speak for the little boy, because the sacred bond between parent and child must be recognized and honored, and Elian should be reunited with his father.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome Alex Hunter, the Boulder County district attorney, who has said earlier that he's not going to run for re- election. He appeared earlier this week, said -- well, let's get right to it.

Alex, what happened in this? Three years ago almost to today, you said we're going to solve this, in fact, a little over three years.

ALEX HUNTER, BOULDER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Tough case. It's a tough case, Larry.

KING: Because?

HUNTER: Well, you know, insufficient evidence. And you know, let me try to share with you what we really have. We have the system working, even though for the general public no arrests, no conviction. I think they feel it's a failure.

But what you have here are American prosecutors doing what they do day in, day out. They're quasijudicial officers. They look at the sufficiency of the evidence. That's what happened here. And a number of us, you know, Bill Grant on one side -- I mean, Bill Ritter on one side; Bob Grant on another; Dave Thomas, the Columbine DA; Jim Peters; and then the three lawyers working with me, Mike Kane -- by the way, not a special prosecutor as John Ramsey said last night, but somebody I hired as a special grand jury person.

KING: All saying?

HUNTER: All saying insufficient evidence. A tough call. And you know, I'm proud of them, and DAs do this every day in America.

KING: Now every day, DAs believe something. Sometimes, they don't indict: They believe something, but they don't have the proof.

HUNTER: Right.

KING: And it may be wrong to ask this, but I'll ask anyway: Do you believe something in this? Do you have a core belief?

HUNTER: It doesn't matter what I believe. You know, I have to follow the evidence. That's my job. And one of the things that has been hard here is to stay neutral, to try get my people to stay neutral, not to operate on feelings.

I have 5,000 letters from people across this country. They say, Mr. DA, it's obvious, my feelings are A did it or B did it, or A and B did it, and that has to be put to the side. And we have to -- you know, Henry Lee puts it so well. You know, this is a search for the truth. It's turning the stones. It's following the leads. It's doing the work.

KING: You have said the ransom note is the key.

HUNTER: I've said -- I've said that it's probably the most important piece of evidence.

KING: Now we asked the Ramseys about that. Now, some things don't make sense. Why would a kidnapper write a ransom note and then kill the person he's going to ransom, right?

HUNTER: It's very peculiar.

KING: And hide her in the same house. That's peculiar.

HUNTER: And such a long note.

KING: If it's a pedophile, why is a pedophile writing a ransom note, right?

HUNTER: Right.

KING: If it's a parent, what's the motive? Why would a parent want to kill his own -- so it's mindboggling.

So why do you go back to the ransom note?

HUNTER: Well, I go back to the ransom note because I think we have a chance to analyze it under some new techniques that are being looked at: psychological linguistics, not admissible right now. Widely -- psychological linguistics.

KING: You mean, they can tell you who wrote it or what the mind of the writer is?

HUNTER: I don't want to -- I don't want to -- you look at the words, the word choice, you look at the style, the paragraphing. It's a very complicated area. It's not admissible at this point in time. But I think that we need to continue to explore it. It's widely used in Europe.

KING: Can we say there is no doubt that the person who wrote it did it?

HUNTER: I don't think we can say necessarily that, because maybe one person wrote it and another person did something else.

KING: Could have been two or three people?

HUNTER: It could have been.

KING: OK. They're using this in Europe to profile the person who writes the note?

HUNTER: In civil and criminal cases. KING: And from the profile, they have made arrests?

HUNTER: They have made arrests. But it's not admissible here because, like polygraph, for example, it's not considered to be reliable. And we have several rules, for example, pretty much across the country now -- the Dobrick (ph) rule -- that we have to follow. We have to lay a foundation. We have to persuade the court, either side, in a criminal case, for example, that what you want to present to the jury is reliable, and the psychological linguistics doesn't cut it yet nor does polygraph.

KING: In Colorado. In some states, where both parties...

HUNTER: Well, no, I don't think so. In the 11th circuit, the federal courts have set some standards. I think that's the only place.

KING: As we go to break, here's what John Ramsey had to say about the evidence in this case on this program earlier this week. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN RAMSEY, FATHER OF JONBENET RAMSEY: There are several key pieces of evidence that we think will lead us to the killer. Male, pedophile. We think a stun gun was involved. So this person either had a stun gun or had access to one. The number 118 has significance to this person: 118,000 was the amount of the ransom note. That was picked for a purpose. We don't know what the purpose is. "SBTC" meant something to this killer. That was how the ransom note was signed. And this person was in Boulder, Colorado on December 25th.

We're not looking for a needle in a haystack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J. RAMSEY: We were asked, had we been asked to take a lie detector test? We said no. We were asked, would we? We said, certainly, we would. We would expect it to be fair, and we would expect the results to be public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Alex, wouldn't that be, whether admissible or not, a pretty good guideline, to have him take one by a top professional person in the field?

HUNTER: Larry, the problem is reliability. You know, there's not...

KING: A top professional, I mean... HUNTER: Well, the problem is that the court is going to be looking at the basis, the foundation across the board. And right now in Colorado, in all other states that I know of, except the 11th circuit, they're saying no, not...

KING: Do you ever use them as an aide?

HUNTER: We use them as an investigative technique. Probably in my 28 years, we've used it a half a dozen times, usually with somebody in the jail.

KING: Didn't consider it in this case?

HUNTER: No, they were asked -- they were asked, both of them, if they wanted to take a polygraph. There may be some confusion about semantics, but...

KING: They refused?

HUNTER: ... I think that you and I would conclude that they were asked. But that was -- you know, they have a right to change their mind. That was back in April of 1997.

But you know, let me tell you one of the problems. And I -- you know, I and Mike Kane and Bruce Levin and Mitch Morris and the other four district attorneys that are working with me -- we are at a point now, since we're outside of the grand jury, where we are advisers to Chief Beckner. We've got to advise him...

KING: The police chief.

HUNTER: The police chief.

KING: Advise him in what?

HUNTER: And we have to advise him on this polygraph issue.

Now, listening to the Ramseys the other night talking to you about the intruder and the clues, let's just say that hypothetically, down the road there is an intruder. What if the Ramseys took the polygraph and one or both of them failed it? I'm now in trial, or my successor is in trial, against the intruder, which they push as a consideration for us. And one or both of them have failed the polygraph. They have compromised the case.

KING: Would it compromise...

HUNTER: They have tainted the case.

KING: Would it compromise, though, if they took the polygraph tomorrow? You have no intruder arrested, and they failed or they passed? If they passed, would it help you? If they failed, would it help you?

HUNTER: Well, the problem is that we do not see it -- and this is the advice that we're going to give to Chief Beckner, and he'll have to make the call. We do not see it as reliable. And we see...

KING: You don't buy it?

HUNTER: I don't buy it. And you know, I have -- I have a very low heart rate. My standing heart rate is about 50. And we know there are drugs you can take that can affect perspiration, can affect blood pressure, can affect heart rate. And that's part of the -- part of the issues around reliability.

KING: True or false, the police wanted you to indict them? And they claim on this program...

HUNTER: Well.

KING: ... the police are after them, still after them. The police don't look at any other suspects. They're the suspects.

HUNTER: They overstate it. First of all, there was one police officer and maybe the commander early in the case that felt there should be an arrest. And...

KING: Of them?

HUNTER: Of them. And you know, the officer said to me, throw them in the jail, let them hear the clang of the door, and we'll break him. And I said, look, under Colorado law -- and frankly, all law in all of the states -- the DA has got to establish proof evident, presumption great. Impossible in this case. They would have walked -- or anybody under the set of facts we have...

KING: Proof evident, presumption great.

HUNTER: Proof evident, presumption great, otherwise, in a capital case, you can't...

KING: What about the police now?

HUNTER: The police now since -- frankly, very early on, I think, have been objective, have been pursuing the leads. Many of the clues that John Ramsey referred to have been considered, several of them debunked. There are a number of issues we continue to work on, and I think that we work on those objectively. The four officers -- Commander Wickman, Tom Trujillo, Jane Harmer and Ron Gossage -- are good cops.

KING: What do you make of two detectives, Lou Smit on one side, and I think this other fellow -- I forget his name; he's going to be on the show in a couple of weeks. He's written a book saying the Ramseys did it. Two veteran detectives can be so far apart on a case, one saying definitely, yes, one saying definitely no. As a DA, you had them both in your office. What do you do with someone like that?

HUNTER: Well, I said to Lou Smit, who's a very good officer, you know, 150-plus homicide cases -- the other officer never had a homicide case, the one that's going to be on in a couple of weeks, nor did the commander, and these two -- these two were buddies. But I said to Lou, I said: Lou, stay neutral; you know, if you're going to be a help to marching on down the road on this, stay neutral. And I had to do that with some of my own people, stay neutral, because otherwise...

KING: Hard (UNINTELLIGIBLE) emotionally charged...

HUNTER: Because -- it is. It is hard. And -- but you know, that is the job of the American prosecutor, and I think we do it all the time.

KING: We'll take a break, and as we go to break, here's the Ramseys' thoughts on the investigation. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE," MARCH 27, 2000)

J. RAMSEY: I don't think there's a conspiracy. I think it's -- it's based on inexperience, gross inexperience. These people have no homicide experience. Their leadership had no experience in this. They concluded very quickly that it must have been the parents because the parents always do it. And that became their theory. And they spent three years investigating us to try to prove that theory.

That conclusion was reached before any of the evidence was even looked at. We know that for a fact.

P. RAMSEY: But we're saying that's OK. That is OK. You know, let bygones be bygones. But let's finish the investigation. We need experienced homicide investigators to start again, you know. We will be totally cooperative.

Everyone will -- start again. Start with canvassing of the neighborhood. Look at all the tests again. Go back and do more DNA testing. Start again. We've got to find this person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE" MONDAY, MARCH 27, 2000)

J. RAMSEY: Linda Arndt, the lead detective who was there, went on national television a few months ago and said, "I knew the father did it because I saw it in his eyes on the 26th."

KING: He was too calm.

J. RAMSEY: I was -- I didn't act right. I was too calm, cordial.

KING: How did you react when she said that?

J. RAMSEY: It was a bit incredulous, but it also illustrated the bias we were dealing with from the very beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is he right there, Alex?

HUNTER: Well, in the beginning

KING: Was she wrong to say something?

HUNTER; Well, in the -- it's overstated.

KING: He's overstating it?

HUNTER: He's overstating it. In the beginning there were an officer or two that I think had strong feelings that did not have homicide experience. But the four officers that have been working this case for the last couple of years are good officers with good experience. now...

KING: Was Linda Arndt wrong to say that on national television?

HUNTER: She was wrong, and it certainly isn't any kind of evidence that a prosecutor could ever use, those kinds of feelings.

KING: Was the governor also wrong?

HUNTER: If I had been advising the governor, I would have suggested to him that his language be different. But you know, the accusation that it's political -- I don't buy that. If the governor wanted to be political, when he put the blue ribbon panel together to make a determination whether or not he should appoint a special prosecutor, he would have appointed one. So...

KING: You think the governor was just reflecting his own feelings?

HUNTER: You know, he's not a lawyer, and I think he was reflecting his own feelings. He probably might have ignored some of the advice from his -- his counsel, because he was expressing feelings like thousands of people have in this country about this case.

KING: Got to be frustrating, Alex?

HUNTER: It is frustrating.

KING: I mean, you've got to -- apparently now it looks like a perfect murder, right, a perfect crime?

HUNTER: You know, I don't think any of us working this case think it's perfect. We just don't think it's perfect. And Larry, the point is that a lot of cases get solved after three years, after four years...

KING: They do?

HUNTER: ... after five years. Although the perception of the American public is that these -- to speak generally -- that they get solved in an hour.

KING: "Law and Order" takes an hour. Greta Van Susteren, who was on our show -- you saw her on Tuesday night -- called in with a couple of questions. I'll relay them to you.

Under Colorado law, is it possible that a grand jury could indict and a prosecutor not file?

HUNTER: Yes, because there has to be -- there has to be joint action. So the prosecutor's to sign off.

KING: So you have to...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTER: But you know, I'm not going -- and Greta knows this -- I'm not going to talk about what the grand jury did or didn't do.

KING: No, the question was only...

HUNTER: Yes.

KING: ... is it possible that they could indict and a district attorney says, it's not -- despite the fact...

HUNTER: The district attorney has got to sign it.

KING: Just as a judge could throw a case out.

HUNTER: Right.

KING: Right, OK. And two, was the DNA found in her fingernails contaminated?

HUNTER: I'm not going to speak to that.

KING: Are we still -- Henry Lee was on and said that they're still working on that.

HUNTER: Well...

KING: Well, if there is DNA that doesn't belong to the parents, it belongs to someone. Until someone comes forward, you're never going to know who that is.

HUNTER: Well, you know, I think we should be -- you know, DNA is changing the face of criminal justice.

KING: Sure is. Proof positive.

HUNTER: Henry Lee knows more about it and Barry Scheck, who are working this case. They're working, and others, frankly, outside of this country that have special DNA expertise, to deal with some of the unanswered questions. And I don't see it to be a perfect murder, otherwise this thing would be on the shelf.

KING: You have people outside of this country working on it? HUNTER: Yes.

KING: We'll be right back...

HUNTER: There's probably 200 experts that are working...

KING: Now?

HUNTER: No, no, that have worked on this case.

KING: And are people still working it?

HUNTER: People are still working it, including our mutual friend, Dr. Lee.

KING: Back with more of Alex Hunter. We'll include your phone calls. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Walter Cronkite, Catherine Graham (ph) and Hugh Downs tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE," MARCH 27, 2000)

J. RAMSEY: If we were guilty, the smartest thing we could have done when that grand jury was over...

KING: Go silently into the night.

J. RAMSEY: ,.. was go away, quietly and silently. We're not going to do that.

P. RAMSEY: We're not going to go away. We're going to find this person.

J. RAMSEY: The killer is out there.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I know, I know. And you know, and I understand the way you felt. I've dealt with clients that feel the same way. But cautious lawyers are always worried.

J. RAMSEY: No, we know...

VAN SUSTEREN: They worry more about innocent clients than they do about guilty clients.

J. RAMSEY: Absolutely.

P. RAMSEY: I worry -- you know what I worry about? I worry about this murderer murdering another innocent child. That's what I'm worried about. What -- who is going to find this person?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

J. RAMSEY: I wrote a letter over two years ago to Alex Hunter, and I said, you need to understand, Mr. Hunter, we have no confidence in trust in the Boulder Police, but we will meet with your investigators anywhere, anytime, anyplace for as long as you'd like. I wrote that as a personal letter I wrote to Alex Hunter over two years ago, and that was our position. We -- no one wants to find this killer more than I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And Mrs. Ramsey said she had a conversation with you on the phone to thank you for keeping working on this.

First of all, both those statements true? You got their letter?

HUNTER: Yes, that's right. Of course, you know, we did three days of interviews with the Ramseys.

KING: What were your impressions? I mean, we don't have an indictment. We don't have anything. You watched the last two nights here.

HUNTER: I watched the last two nights. I watched probably 30 hours of questions by some very good detectives and lawyers. I thought they answered most of the questions, and they certainly are articulate, and as you -- you and I were talking before, 50 percent of the people that hear them believe them and 50 percent don't. And that makes it an extraordinary case. I wish I was more than an ordinary man working with an extraordinary case.

KING: This is extraordinary because we have film of the little girl dancing in pageants, don't you think?

HUNTER: I think if we didn't have the pageant costumes and dancing, this would be one of the 2,000 child death cases a year.

KING: Do you agree with Greta? A new district attorney could put the Ramseys in a troublesome state, because he or she may say, well, I'm putting -- all of Hunters things aside, and I am going -- I may have an opinion?

HUNTER: I am not sure that they could get away with that, and I'll tell you why. I think if it was just Alex Hunter standing alone, they might be able to do that, but the problem is that I have four very respected DAs, you know, sitting DAs who have been at my side throughout this, plus three very high-powered, experienced prosecutors who'd be plucking mad.

KING: So the new DAs are going to have to work with them, right?

HUNTER: I don't know how the new DA could ignore their position, because there's consensus among us that there's insufficient evidence and the case shouldn't be filed at this time.

KING: You told me in the green room, there's enormous interest in this. You were asked to speak about it. You go to district attorney conventions. There's enormous interest. Why are you leaving?

HUNTER: You know, for a lot of reasons. My son, my 10-year-old -- I have five children. My 10-year-old said to me the other day, he said, "Dad, you know, you don't listen to all my questions." I have ignored him. I have ignored my wife. I am going to be 64 years old in December. I'd be 68 at the end of the term, seven terms. I've done the things that I think were important for my community.

You know, a DA is sort of the eyes of the community. And Boulder is such a special place -- no corruption, lowest crime rate probably in the country for its demographics. And I think it's time for new eyes, new vision, new energies.

KING: And also, frankly, Alex, I don't want to put words in your mouth, did you become absorbed with this?

HUNTER: I did become pretty absorbed. I think my son probably indicated that the other day. And, you know, the law is a jealous mistress just generally. And when you have a case like this and when you have the dynamics that are created in terms of all of the players -- that's why I think you have to kind of generalize. You have one detective throwing his badge down over here because he doesn't think you're being tough enough. You have another one throwing his badge here.

KING: Both believe what they feel.

HUNTER: I think that's true. And I have compassion and empathy for both of these officers, and frankly, the others that are laying at the side of the road. This case has been very destructive. I did some hurtful things to people in my office. I had to take some of my loyal trial lawyers off of the case sort of midway.

KING: Why?

HUNTER: Well, because my advisers -- Governor Romer at the time -- you know, we've had two governors who've been involved in this case -- suggesting that we needed to put new blood into it, that we needed to rev up the case, and I was concerned that some objectivity, frankly, had been lost by some of my own people, and to put it back on track, you know, I brought in this Mike King, who's one of the finest lawyers I have ever met, and then Ritter gave me Mitch Morris, who is probably the best DNA prosecutor in Colorado. And Bob Frank gave me Bruce Levin who had just tried five homicide cases back to back, and this became the team that took it on through the grand jury.

KING: A guy working on your staff was a little tickled that he's overlooked.

HUNTER: Well, and he's a guy that -- both of these people I pulled off are men that I love, that I care about.

KING: Lost friendships.

HUNTER: I think they've been strained.

KING: How about in the police department?

HUNTER: Well, I've always had some disagreement with police. You know, that was one of the funny things I think in this case. Prosecutors and police often are at odds, because 30 percent of the cases they bring us we're sending back -- you don't have enough, you need to do more. And that's this quasijudicial function that I think the American prosecutor plays.

But you know, when John Ramsey talks about the lack of objectivity on the part of police, we need to keep in mind that once this went to the grand jury and you had four lawyers working the case, experienced prosecutors, and four advisers, that it really didn't matter whether the police were objective or not. I, frankly, think they were objective enough, and they were told what to do, and they did the things that we, the prosecutors, told them to do.

KING: Here's John Ramsey describing the details as he remembers them of that morning.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J. RAMSEY: I found her after Linda Arndt asked to us go through the house, look for anything out of ordinary, out of place, and I found her in the basement. I...

KING: Where?

J. RAMSEY: She was in a room that probably originally was a coal cellar. It was a four concrete walled room. I knew instantly when I opened the door that I'd found her.

KING: Did you know she was dead?

J. RAMSEY: No, I didn't. I had this rush of just, thank God, I found her. She -- her hands were tied. She had tape over her mouth. I removed the tape immediately. I could feel that her skin was cool. And I feared the worst, but I still held out hope that she would be OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J. RAMSEY: The police have not talked to us at all. We don't know what's been done...

KING: Well, they questioned you, right?

J. RAMSEY: Oh, they've questioned us extensively.

KING: But they haven't told you anything about...

J. RAMSEY: No.

KING: You have not seen the death certificate? J. RAMSEY: No.

P. RAMSEY: No.

KING: You don't how your daughter died.

J. RAMSEY: We do. She was strangled.

KING: That's the cause of death?

J. RAMSEY: That's the cause of death.

KING: But you don't know if any sexual activity took place?

J. RAMSEY: It's not clear to me that there was. We don't know. It's one of those questions you don't want to know the answer to, frankly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: They say the police have been responsible for leaks to the tabloids. Have you checked that out?

HUNTER: I don't think there's any proof of that.

KING: You suspected?

HUNTER: Well, you know, there was a "Vanity Fair" article, and I got an apology letter from Tom Koby that suggested that maybe one of the officers had talked to "Vanity Fair." I think that's probably true, but other than that...

KING: Burke was cleared, right?

HUNTER: Yes.

KING: Was he a long-time suspect?

HUNTER: No.

KING: The son?

HUNTER: No, he -- no. He was considered, as you would expect.

KING: Anybody in the house.

HUNTER: He was one of three people in the house. But both Chief Beckner and I spoke to the exclusion of Burke.

KING: Any evidence of sexual molestation?

HUNTER: I'm not going to speak to that.

KING: Fort Mills, South Carolina, hello.

CALLER: Yes, if a lack of DNA match has eliminated other people as suspects, why has it not eliminated the Ramseys when their DNA does not match the DNA under JonBenet's fingernails or in her underpants?

KING: Well, you don't know that it doesn't, right? Or do we know that it doesn't -- doesn't match the Ramseys, the DNA in her fingernails?

HUNTER: The -- I'm not going to speak to that, but the problem that I would like to address with the caller's question is that there are other issues in addition to DNA that make exclusion not the position of the prosecutors working this case. And there are some explanations with respect to the DNA that we -- that consider to be -- we're continuing to work on those.

KING: Well, has it cleared some people? Some people who might have been on a list of suspects, has the DNA thrown them out as suspects?

HUNTER: No, it's other things that really threw them out.

KING: Not the DNA?

HUNTER: Well, the DNA was a factor, but it's other -- other considerations.

KING: You obviously count a lot on this testing you're doing of this ransom note. Even though it's not admissible, you're looking at it very seriously. Other countries do admit it.

Do you think it could lead you down the road to finding the killer, then, by other means, that this will be a tool?

HUNTER: I think it could be a tool.

KING: Are you hopeful?

HUNTER: I am hopeful. You know, I -- I want to be very cautious about getting people to go to the bank, but all of us that are working this case feel that it is different than a lot of the cases that never get solved, you know, the decomposed body in the ditch, and you can't figure out the -- the dental -- the bite. You can't, you know, there's nothing left. We have a lot to work with here. We continue to have hope. Dr. Lee and other experts continue to work on the case.

But it's a tough case, Larry.

KING: Are there unsolved murder cases in Boulder other than this one?

HUNTER: Yes, there are unsolved murder cases everywhere.

KING: All cities have them.

HUNTER: All cities have them. And in...

KING: Especially a one-time murderer, right?

HUNTER: ... city after city, your viewers read about cases that are solved after five years, after 10 years.

KING: Twenty years. Steve Thomas -- he's going to be here in a couple of weeks. He's not a homicide detective. He's written a book very critical of the Ramseys. Should we discount it?

HUNTER: Well, you know, I think people have the right to write a book. I'm disappointed that he's writing it, because he's using his police case file. I was disappointed that Lou Smit did some interviews and...

KING: Did he? I never...

HUNTER: Well, he did something with "Newsweek." In a perfect world, we wouldn't see that. These cases should be tried in the court.

KING: Is that why you didn't speak out during all of this time?

HUNTER: That's right. And I speak out now because I think that there were issues -- for example, John Ramsey said the other day that the FBI was not involved. In fact, the FBI was involved on the first day at 8:15 in the morning. We told the Boulder Police Department -- suggested to them or their advisers to get the FBI there, and they were there, and they have been active throughout the case.

KING: So he was misinformed.

HUNTER: I don't know where he got that information. And then he talked about Mike Kane being a special prosecutor. He wasn't. I hired Mike Kane to -- as a grand jury specialist. And he worked from April of '98 and continues to work on the case. And it's the objectively of the lawyers that I think the Ramseys should find some confidence in. These are very experienced prosecutors who bring to the table many years of experience.

KING: What do you make of their book?

HUNTER: I've had it briefed by my assistant, and it, frankly, is what I have heard over time during their interviews and during the other...

KING: There's nothing new in it -- to you?

HUNTER: No, I don't see anything to be new.

KING: We'll be back with more of Alex Hunter and more of your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's take another call for Alex Hunter. Denver, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi. CALLER: Alex, a lot of people in this neighborhood especially believe the Ramseys have not been arrested because of their wealth or their influence in the community. And I just wanted to know what your opinion was on that belief.

HUNTER: Well, you know, I've had, I was telling, Larry, 5,000 letters at least -- probably more, lots more e-mails and love notes on the Internet -- some suggesting that. I guess, you know, what can I say? This is my seventh term as a district attorney. I have never heard anybody raise an issue about somebody buying their way out in Boulder County. I'm not sure I've ever heard that allegation with respect...

KING: Well, it's generally thought that rich people have clout that poor people don't have.

HUNTER: Well, you know, I think some of the best lawyers are public defenders.

KING: So you're saying they had no clout in preventing an investigation, stalling an investigation?

HUNTER: I don't think so at all.

KING: They can't set the rules...

HUNTER: You know, the stalling can take place at a point in time when you've filed a case. There really is no ability to stall during the course of an investigation.

KING: Is anyone else under the umbrella of suspicion?

HUNTER: I'm not going to speak to that.

KING: Why did you talk to "The Globe"?

HUNTER: Well, "The Globe" -- "The Globe" had a million dollar, and does have a million dollar, reward. They were getting hundreds of leads a day. You know, I've kept all of my voice mails where this Jeff Shapiro would call me and he would say...

KING: He's with "The Globe."

HUNTER: Yes, he's one of "The Globe" people. You know, I have this, I have that, I have this, I have that. He was also sort of working the other side of the street, giving information from leads on a million-dollar reward. I mean, you can imagine what was coming in, and most of it was goofy, but a lot of it was solid.

For example, it was "The Globe" that found the type of cord that was used in the garrote, and so I felt that I could not turn him away.

I have never talked to any other tabloid, you know. Thomas accuses me of dalliances with the tabloids. The only one I have talked to is "The Globe." The only reason I talked to them is they had a million dollar reward. And they were producing information for us to pursue, most of it not good. But what are you going to do? Close the door? No.

KING: You could have satisfies a lot of the public by filing your case, couldn't you?

HUNTER: You know, a lot of people wanted that, but you know, what's the sort of long picture of that? You file a case. You then lose it probably at midtrial. Jeopardy attaches. And you know...

KING: You can't bring a charge...

HUNTER: You know, I have on my desk a little picture of JonBenet. I've had it there since the beginning of this investigation to remind me of what this is about. It's not about Alex Hunter getting his butt kicked or about a cop throwing his badge down. It is about trying to find the kill of this little girl, and sometimes I try the look at the case through her eyes.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Alex Hunter right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J. RAMSEY: What we feed to do is get down to the objective here. The objective is to find the killer. I can say a lot of things about what the police didn't do. They can say a lot of things about what we didn't do, but that's put that aside. Let's put politics aside. Let's put egos aside. There is a dangerous killer loose, we believe. This killer, if he's still alive, will kill again. It's time to get on with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You're telling me about in the "shake baby" cases, these are nice people who get angry. That can happen with somebody, right?

HUNTER: You know, I have had people over the years -- and every DA will tell you the same story. We just see, in these "shake baby" cases particularly, good people who lose it; they lose their temper. They shake their babies and they rattle their brains loose, and they kill them or they brain damage them.

KING: They don't garrote them.

HUNTER: They don't garrote them.

KING: What's it like for a district attorney when he feels he knows who might have done it and he doesn't have the proof? So that is hypothetical, because I am not saying you know the Ramseys did it or -- what's that like for you?

HUNTER: Well, I think it's frustrating.

KING: Must drive you nuts.

HUNTER: Yes, except it's sort of like other kinds of jobs where you can't quite make...

KING: But you've got her picture up there.

HUNTER: Yes, I do have her picture up there.

KING: You think you know the killer, then you've got to be going nuts, if you do think you know the killer.

HUNTER: You know, I am not going to say that I think I know the killer, because...

KING: But if you do, you've got to go crazy.

HUNTER: If you get to that point. And of course, trying to remain objective is a challenge.

KING: I'll bet.

HUNTER: And it is critical, in terms of the operation of the American criminal justice system, of the prosecutors and police for that matter, as best they can, because we do react, particularly, if our heart strings are pulled or our guts are squeezed; you know, we have emotions, and we react. I see it in these letters that I have.

KING: Do you think it will be an issue in the district attorney's race?

HUNTER: Well, it already is an issue by some of the candidates, but two of the people running are my deputies, so they're not making it an issue. And then there are two others. One of them is being handled by Steve Thomas. He can tell you about him.

KING: You mean he's for that guy.

HUNTER: Yes, he's for that guy.

KING: Do you expect to sit down with the winner and go over everything you know?

HUNTER: Absolutely, whoever the winner is, absolutely.

KING: This case is going to be part of your life forever. In your obituary, at age 130 when you die, JonBenet Ramsey's name is going to be in the first paragraph. How does that make you feel?

HUNTER: You know, I have felt it a real privilege to be able to work this case. And the challenge has been to stay true to the law. You know, my father-in-law, who is an FBI agent and elected DA, coincidentally, in California, and went on to be a superior court judge, he died during the course of this case, so did my mother, February of the first year, but he said to me -- he said "Be true to the law, Alex." And I think that that's what I am doing. I think these men have -- were willing, with a hot potato case, as Henry Lee puts it, to stand by me, as controversial as the case was, because they knew. I admire them, and I'm glad to be one of them.

KING: So you sleep nights?

HUNTER: I do sleep nights -- without pills.

KING: About you do think it will be solved?

HUNTER: I do think it will be solved. I think there's enough that I would like, you know, those who care about this case -- and I do think that JonBenet has become a symbol for other dead children, murdered children. So I think that people do sort of transfer their emotions to her, and they should not lose hope.

KING: Thank you, Alex. Thanks for coming.

Alex Hunter, district attorney, Boulder County, Colorado.

Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND."

And join us tomorrow night, three veteran journalists -- they're all over 80 -- Walter Cronkite, Catherine Graham, Hugh Downs. We'll talk about everything in the news, including this case.

Stay tuned for "NEWSSTAND."

I'm Larry King. For Alex and the rest of us here in Washington, good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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