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Burden of Proof

John and Patsy Ramsey Discuss 'The Death of Innocence'

Aired April 28, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET



JOHN RAMSEY, FATHER OF JONBENET RAMSEY: What we need to know is what do they want? They can't just say, we haven't cooperated and not tell us what they want. Cooperation is a two-way street. We've done everything they've asked. We want to continue to do everything that they need to find the killer of our daughter.

ALEX HUNTER, BOULDER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Take a polygraph, pass the polygraph, I think that would go a long way toward persuading the police to keep their minds open.


ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today, for the first time on BURDEN OF PROOF: John and Patsy Ramsey.

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Roger Cossack and Greta Van Susteren.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF. I am in New York today.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: And I am in our Washington studio, joined by John and Patsy Ramsey.

As you know, the 1996 Christmas night murder of their 6-year-old daughter JonBenet has baffled law enforcement and captivated the nation.

COSSACK: Police have not let the Ramseys out from under the, quote, "umbrella of suspicion," unquote. But in their battle to go on with their loss and their lives, the Ramseys have written a book, "The Death of Innocence."

VAN SUSTEREN: The book gives an insider's view of the Ramsey family, the investigation in Boulder, Colorado, and the media frenzy that has swirled around this case for more than three years.

Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, thank you for joining us today.

Patsy, let me start first with you, what is the status of the polygraph standoff with the Boulder police? are you going to take one? PATSY RAMSEY, MOTHER OF JONBENET RAMSEY: Well, it's my understanding that we have come up with some names of individuals that are preeminent in their field of polygraphy, and those have been submitted to the Boulder Police Department; am I right?

J. RAMSEY: I believe so.

P. RAMSEY: I don't know the names of these individuals, but I'm certainly hopeful that this will happen, because these are preeminent, experienced people.

VAN SUSTEREN: John, why are the police saying that this has broken down, if you have given the name of the people...

J. RAMSEY: Well, I don't know. We have been pretty clear in our position. We were asked: Have you taken a polygraph test -- were you asked to take a polygraph test? We said: No. Would you? We said, yes, if it was fair and independent. And we're strong on that. We will do that if it's fair and independent. I don't think anyone would expect us to do otherwise.

We also told the police up front, when this surfaced for real, that the FBI was not independent. They had been in collusion and holding hands with the Boulder Police for the last two years, and we said that isn't fair. We will submit to a polygraph test that will show truthfulness or deception, which is what I believe they do, if it's fair and independent.

And the last correspondence we officially got from the police through the press was that it was FBI or no one. So we went back and we said we did some research, our attorney did, and went back to Chief Beckner and said: Here's the name of someone I believe is probably the tops in their field, polygraphy; has irrefutable credentials; we don't know them, we haven't talked to them. This person would be perfectly acceptable to us, call them if you will, and we're ready to go. So we're waiting to see what they will do.

VAN SUSTEREN: I can't expect that they.

COSSACK: Patsy, let me ask you a question. When I was a lawyer and before I would let my clients take a lie detector test, I used to made sure that they could pass their lie detector tests. I know you have very excellent lawyers, I know some of your lawyers. Have you privately taken a lie detector test? either of you? or both of you? and have you passed it already?

J. RAMSEY: You were asked the question, go ahead.

P. RAMSEY: I think that is kind of an inappropriate question, if you're so up on -- i think that's lawyer-client privilege and I don't wish to ruin that but...

J. RAMSEY: Being a lawyer, also recognize that any lawyer would tell their clients: Do not, under any circumstances, take a police polygraph test. They are subjective. We've gotten a number of letters from former polygraphers, we got one the other day from a retired FBI polygrapher, who said I could make the pope look deceptive, if I chose to do so. We got a letter from a state attorney general who said: You are absolutely correct, it must be fair and independent if you are going to do this. Don't give up on the point.

VAN SUSTEREN: Patsy, you know, the truth is, I mean, you know, there's a lot of doubt as to whether polygraphs are good or bad. Some courts say they're acceptable, some don't. But the whole issue of polygraph was raised by both of you on "LARRY KING." Why not -- if you think this is important, why not get one of these preeminent polygraphers and do it yourself and release it? Forget about Boulder Police Department.

P. RAMSEY: Well, we have -- because we want the Boulder police to be, you know, to be part of this. It was their, you know, invitation letter that came to us to say, let's go forward with this.

VAN SUSTEREN: But they've never just -- they've never been on, quote -- from day one, they have suspected you. And, you know, frankly, I don't know if you could ever change their view, but if you want to take a polygraph, if you think it's important, if you think it is wise, why not just do it and release the results?

P. RAMSEY: The only reason I think it is important, Greta, because I don't -- I mean, there is a reason: They're inadmissible in court. You know, if they were of that much value, they would be admissible in court. But the reason I'm willing to do that is -- that if this is another stumbling block yet again that police are using to hamper the forward march of this investigation, we're willing to do anything to get off that dime.

COSSACK: Well, John, if you're willing to do anything, why don't you go in and take the test that the police wish to offer you as well as taking one from your own -- from the people that you want to have it take -- give it to you?

J. RAMSEY: We have said -- and our condition was simple -- we want to do a fair and independent test. That seems like a very fair...

P. RAMSEY: Not that difficult.

J. RAMSEY: ... uncomplex request. If you're an attorney, would you recommend that we do -- take an unfair test for heaven sakes? This is our life.

COSSACK: If I was your attorney, I probably wouldn't have recommended that you take the test at all.

J. RAMSEY: As our attorneys have recommended. We are going against our attorneys' recommendations on this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask the question -- and don't mean to invade the attorney-client privilege, but this whole -- I mean, frankly, I'm with Roger and I don't care how innocent my clients are, I never want them to take polygraph tests because people can fail them who are innocent. So it's always a problem. But given that, have you -- you know, have you actually done -- have you been polygraphed on this particular issue -- either one of you at this point?

J. RAMSEY: We can't answer that, Greta. That's, I believe, is an attorney-client privilege. What we have said is we will take a fair and independent polygraph test.

P. RAMSEY: There is no question that we are afraid to ask. The truth does not change. If you ask me any question, I will, as truthfully as I possibly, humanly can, answer the question. And there's nothing I'm afraid to answer.

COSSACK: John, why do you think it's attorney-client privilege just for the notion of whether or not you took the test? I'm not asking you what the results were, but just merely whether or not you have taken the test independently.

P. RAMSEY: We're looking forward to taking the test. Hopefully -- I mean, I see no reason why this test, this leading person that has -- whose name has been given to the police chief, Beckner, hopefully that -- you know, I can't imagine why he would not accept this person's name. He's preeminent. So we look forward to that.

VAN SUSTEREN: But why didn't they accept it? I mean, I...

P. RAMSEY: Well, we haven't heard yet.

J. RAMSEY: We don't know. We're hopeful that they will.

P. RAMSEY: We just were in discussions yesterday. I mean, this -- we haven't heard back yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: Give me a prediction: Do you think the polygraph -- you'll reach an agreement?

J. RAMSEY: Why wouldn't they.

P. RAMSEY: Oh, absolutely.

J. RAMSEY: I mean, if this person that we've submitted -- we haven't talked to him. That's one of the reasons we can't put his name out there. And we don't want to talk to him because we don't want to be accused of setting something up. If he is tops in his field, his peers recognize him as that, and he's willing to do it, we're willing to submit to, why wouldn't the police do that?


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we're going to take a break. More with the Ramseys when we come back.


Tomorrow marks eight years since an all-white jury acquitted four L.A. police officers for the beatings of motorist Rodney King. Hours after the verdict was announced, violence erupted throughout the city, leading to three days of riots, 55 deaths, almost 2,000 injuries and 7,000 arrests. (END LEGAL BRIEF)


COSSACK: Good news for our Internet-savvy viewers: You can now watch BURDEN OF PROOF live on the World Wide Web. Just log-on to We now provide a live video feed, Monday through Friday, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. And if you miss that live show, the program is available on the site at any time via video-on-demand. You can also interact with our show and even join our chat room.

VAN SUSTEREN: Despite the now-famous ransom note's instruction not to call police, the Ramseys say they dialed 911 as soon as they knew their daughter was missing. Since that day, much has been written and said about the Ramseys' relationship with law enforcement, most recently in former Boulder police detective Steve Thomas' book, "JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation."

Patsy, your book is a best seller, "The Death of Innocence." Steve Thomas now has his book out. And of course, he is critical of the D.A.'s office, as well as you and John. Tell me, if you were in charge of the investigation today, give me the blueprint of how you would do this?

P. RAMSEY: If I were in charge today, I would hire two or three of this country's top homicide detectives. I mean, when I say experienced, I mean that they have at least 100 homicides under their belt.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you tell them to do?

P. RAMSEY: I would say: This is the room where all of the evidence is stored. You start from the beginning, start combing, and go.

J. RAMSEY: Go back to the neighborhood, talk to the neighbors, that's never been done by the police. Start from the beginning, start from scratch, sit down with the parents, sit down with anybody that will talk to you within a hundred-yard radius of the house.

VAN SUSTEREN: Didn't they talk to the neighbor, though, who heard a scream at some point?

P. RAMSEY: We don't know, Greta, because no one has ever -- We hear rumors all the time. No one in authority has ever talked with us and told us what they know.

J. RAMSEY: What we know is what we have read or heard on television. We have not heard anything official from the police. So was there a woman that heard a scream? I believe so because I've heard that reported.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you don't know for certain?

J. RAMSEY: I don't know for certain. COSSACK: Mr. Ramsey, you have -- you and Mrs. Ramsey have been criticized for wanting to see all the evidence before you're interviewed, for not agreeing to be interviewed separately, control over when the interview took place, isn't that the kind of thing that would lead people to conclude that perhaps you are involved in this? and if you had that to do over again, would you?

J. RAMSEY: Two thing, Roger, one is, we've been cast in a role of having to prove our innocence, and that's fundamentally wrong, and we've been given hurdles to jump over, over the last 3 1/2 years, we were investigated for two years, my family has probably been investigated more than any families in the country. The grand jury investigated us for 13 months. Now we are saying: Well, they can take a lie detector test. What's next?

What did and didn't do, you need to understand from the perspective of that we were totally debilitated. We were crushed. Our daughter had been murdered in the middle of the night in our home. We could barely function. We had friends who brought in attorneys to represent us in what became very quickly a fairly disgusting set of actions by the police.

We did what we were told for probably a year. And we felt we were in good hands with friends and attorneys who were very principled and ethical people. And our goal was to find the killer of our daughter. That was our overriding, singular goal. We went back to Boulder, Colorado after we buried JonBenet only to sit down and work with the police.

And we were cautioned very emphatically that we needed to be aware that the police were looking only at us, they weren't looking anywhere else. They, in fact, had withheld our daughter's body for burial to try to force us to meet some of their conditions prior to leaving for Atlanta.

And we were kind of shocked. We were dumbfounded. But we had to sit back and say: Well, we don't know what's going on, we can barely function, you're our friends, we trust you, you tell us what we need to do.

P. RAMSEY: All of this is spelled out in the book.

COSSACK: I agree with you, Greta, let me just follow up for one second.

VAN SUSTEREN: Patsy is trying...

COSSACK: I agree with you that you were the subject. But what would have been wrong with taking separate interviews immediately?

J. RAMSEY: I don't know.

P. RAMSEY: We should have been interviewed immediately. We absolutely should have been interviewed immediately.

J. RAMSEY: We had been told by professional experienced homicide investigator that the police did us a grave disservice by not taking us out of the house, and taking us right down to the police station, taking our clothes, taking our shoes, interviewing us, taking out fingerprints. Instead, they literally told us: Leave the house, it's now under our control. We were put out on the street.

VAN SUSTEREN: Patsy, in the courtroom, it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden of proof is never on the person who is the subject of investigation. This is unfortunately the court of public opinion. Tell me, what is it that you and John, I mean, tell us the cooperation, summarize the cooperation of the investigation.

P. RAMSEY: Greta, all of this is is in this book, we do not have enough air time for us to explain to you everything that has happened to our family for 3 1/2 years. This book enumerates every single thing, and we have gotten countless letters from people that say: I thought you were guilty until I read your account, your personal true account of what happened. And I'm sorry I misjudged. I came jumping to conclusions.

You know, you read the book, then you come and ask me these questions. You know, that's -- that's our story, that's what happened.

VAN SUSTEREN: How many times did you meet with the police or the representatives?

J. RAMSEY: Well, we met, I know, on the 26th for hour, we met on the 27th for hours, we went I think on the 28th and 29th to give blood sample, hair samples, saliva samples. We went later to -- they took pubic hair samples.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think they say you didn't cooperated, because I have read your book...

P. RAMSEY: I don't know what they call cooperation if that's not cooperating. I mean, I'm lying there on a table have a nurse pluck pubic hairs from my body and I'm crying thinking: How can someone say I'm not cooperating. I mean, tell me what cooperation is.

J. RAMSEY: You have to understand too that, as this evolves, we had given the police our trust and our confidence, and they lost it. They lost -- we lost all confidence in the police in their competence and their integrity. And once you've lost that, it's gone forever, you can't regain that. The same players can't, can't ever reestablish a relationship of trust.

P. RAMSEY: We tried enumerable times, we made overtures and said please come and let's talk.

J. RAMSEY: When Mark Beckner took over as chief of detectives, we invited him to Atlanta to meet with us one on one, let's sit down, let's bury the hatchet, let's get this investigation going. He refused. We offered to meet with the district attorney, no attorneys present, he refused.

COSSACK: Mr. Ramsey, can I interrupt just for a second because we have to take a break. And we will continue this when we come back. Let's talk about evidence that may point to the Ramsey's innocence, when we return.


Q: The mother of slain black police officer Sgt. Cornel Young Jr. has filed a $20 million suit against Providence, Rhode Island. Which well-known lawyer is representing her?

A: Johnnie Cochran. Major Cornel Young Sr., Providence's highest-ranking black officer and father of the slain officer, is not party to the suit.



COSSACK: In their book, "The Death of Innocence," John and Patsy Ramsey write about rumors and falsehoods in the case of the death of their daughter. They also say there are leads and evidence pointing away from them and toward the killer.

Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, or Mr. Ramsey, what are some of the leads and evidence that point away from you and towards someone else?

J. RAMSEY: Well, one of the things the police did do a reasonably good job of was collecting evidence at the beginning. And what we're looking for, we believe, is a male, a pedophile, someone who owned or had access to a stun gun, someone who understood how to tie the garrote. This was a professional killing device. This was not just a piece of string. You look at the picture on our Web site, this is a professional killing device. Somebody knew how to use that, and they were in Boulder, Colorado on December 25. This isn't a needle in a haystack.

We have unmatched DNA that was found under her fingernails and on her underwear. We have hair samples that haven't been matched to anyone. We have a foot print, we have a palm print, we have evidence of entry and exit. There is a lot of evidence if it's observed boy a trained eye.

VAN SUSTEREN: Patsy, you know, there is a -- you're still under this umbrella of suspicion and there's always a chance that you're going to be charged with this crime. Have you thought about what you'll do or how you'll handle it or what you can expect or what you want in the event you are charged?

P. RAMSEY: You know, those are lots of what-ifs. I think we were thinking, as we said in the book, along the time the grand jury was concluding, we had every -- you know, we hadn't seen anything really go right for a long, long time, and we had those thoughts they were probably going to be indicted. But, you know, the grand jury saw all of the evidence, heard everything and did not indict us. We didn't do it.

J. RAMSEY: But, sadly, they didn't indict anyone. I mean, we were -- this wasn't a victory for us. This got us back to the beginning. You know, deep down, we were disappointed that no one was indicted.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's it like to live umbrella this umbrella of suspicion?

J. RAMSEY: Well, it's hurtful. I'm embarrassed for my children, for my 13-year-old boy who has to go to school after his mother's been called a murderer on television. It's difficult. It's not right, and we know we're on the right side of this. Truth and justice will prevail ultimately. I hope I'm still around when it does. But we know we're right, so we're...

VAN SUSTEREN: Patsy, did you ever suspect John? Or John, you ever suspect Patsy?


P. RAMSEY: Never. Not for one moment.

VAN SUSTEREN: Not for a second?

P. RAMSEY: Not for a second.

J. RAMSEY: No, no. We -- I knew Patsy loved JonBenet more than anything else in the world, and she knew that I loved her as much as anything in the world. That thought would be so foreign in that environment.

P. RAMSEY: What was done to JonBenet could not have been done by a parent.

COSSACK: Mr. Ramsey, do you have -- or Mrs. Ramsey -- do you have any of your own investigators working on this case?

P. RAMSEY: Yes we do.

COSSACK: What are they doing?

J. RAMSEY: Well, we don't want to talk much about it because an investigation shouldn't be a public affair, as it has been for the last three years. But I can tell you we probably have more people working on this case right now than the Boulder Police do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me just stop you right there. John and Patsy Ramsey, thank you very much for joining us. I hope you'll come back as this investigation proceeds, but that's all the time we have for today.

Thanks to our guests and thank you very much for watching.

COSSACK: Later today on "TALKBACK LIVE," the political fallout from the Elian Gonzalez case continues in Miami. The city manager has been fired and the police chief has resigned. Phone, fax or e-mail your reactions to "TALKBACK LIVE." That's at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific. And we'll be back Monday with another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. And we'll see you then.



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