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Burden of Proof

Is the Boulder Police's Meeting With the Ramseys an Interview or Interrogation?

Aired August 29, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET


ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today, on BURDEN PROOF, day two. John and Patsy Ramsey meet with Boulder investigators. Is it an interview, or is it an interrogation?


LIN WOOD, ATTORNEY FOR RAMSEYS: It is clear from our standpoint that Mr. Kane's goal was to reinvent the investigation, to claim the right to ask any question that he chose to do so, despite the very clear request of Chief Beckner.



MICHAEL KANE, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: This case is three and a half, almost four years old, and whether it's an intruder or it's somebody in the house that committed this homicide, there are some difficult, tough questions that have to be answered and, you know, Mr. Wood wants to pick and choose what gets asked, and I'm not going to be part of that.


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

COSSACK: Hello, and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

This morning in Atlanta, John and Patsy Ramsey began a second day of questioning in the law offices of their attorney. Seven law- enforcement officials have traveled south to continue the investigation of the 1996 murder of the Ramseys' daughter JonBenet.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: Patsy Ramsey emerged during a lunch break yesterday saying she felt comfortable with the questions, but by day's end, her lawyer, Lin Wood, was accusing the prosecuting attorney of being overzealous. This morning, Patsy Ramsey was back in the chair, with John Ramsey to follow. Police say the Ramseys remain under suspicion in the case.

COSSACK: Joining us today from Boulder, Colorado, is former federal prosecutor Larry Mertes. In Denver, we're joined by criminal- defense attorney Dan Caplis.

VAN SUSTEREN: And here in Washington, Pat Hurley (ph), criminal defense attorney Kenny Robinson, and Tina Duffy (ph). And in the back row, Jeronda Perry (ph) and Donald Jolly (ph).

And also joining us from outside the law office of the Ramseys' attorney, CNN Correspondent Brian Cabell.

Brian, first to you. Do we know if the questioning is still going on at this moment?

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do not, as a matter of fact.

We just heard about 10 minutes ago that, in fact, four of the prosecution team members have left the building. Whether, in fact, they have left for lunch or whether they have left for good, we don't know, but we were told that a number of them came in with their bags packed this morning and were intending to leave.

In fact, Michael Kane, the aggressive prosecutor yesterday, the one that was considered to be obsessive and overzealous by Lin Wood, the Ramseys' attorney -- he said he had to leave by noon today. He, in fact, was leaving the building shortly before noon.

So, whether there's still some questioning going on of John Ramsey upstairs right now, we don't know. Perhaps Lin Wood is just conferring with his two clients.

We are outside waiting right now for a press conference with Lin Wood and the Ramseys, also with Mark Beckner, the police chief of -- from Boulder. He is expected to come out here and address the crowd as well.

We don't know if the questioning is still going on. It's supposed to be over any time now.

VAN SUSTEREN: You -- Brian, give an idea -- I mean, this is -- this case attracts so much media attention. I mean, we can't see -- we can only see you outside the building, but can you sort of -- can you describe to us -- is this -- is Lin Wood's office under siege? I mean, is there the cameras and microwave trucks?

CABELL: Well, if about 15 cameras put it under siege, yes. There are three entrances or -- three exits from this building. There are cameras at all of those exits. We're at the primary exits here in front, and there are about 15 cameras here and, I'd say, about a hundred journalists.

So, yes, this is an unusual scene in downtown Atlanta, and, of course, all the passersby are taking a look, as they're eating their lunch and walking in the noon-day sun, wondering what's going on and waiting for the Ramseys -- coming --

And it looks, in fact, as though the Ramseys are coming right now. Or somebody is. Let me get out of the way. Let me move out of the way. Once again, we are expecting the Ramseys to come out. In fact, we see Patsy Ramsey there, John Ramsey behind her, and there is Lin Wood.

Lin Wood not at all happy yesterday with what happened. He -- he believes Mark Beckner, the police chief, was fair, but one of the prosecutors was not fair, he believes. Michael Kane...

COSSACK: Greta, this case becomes...

CABELL: Michael Kane thought to be very suspicious of the Ramseys. He has made it known that he is suspicious.

And, once again, here is Lin Wood approaching the stand.

COSSACK: More curious every moment, this case.

WOOD: Good afternoon.

The interviews conducted by the Boulder Police Department have now been completed, and I am extremely pleased to tell you that today's session was as productive as yesterday morning's session, and the problems that occurred yesterday afternoon, as a practical matter, did not occur today.

John and Patsy Ramsey have now sat through what I think fairly is their sixth day of interrogation or interview. They have answered every question posed to them, with the exception of questions regarding forensic test results where we reserved the right to first see the actual test results before we answered those questions.

I think we are now at or just before the point in time where the investigative efforts of the Boulder Police Department as it pertains to these two people are drawing to a close. They have now in six days answered literally every question except for the exception that I mentioned to you. They have collected all of their evidence out in Boulder. They have forensically tested it. They have examined and reexamined every square inch of this family's life.

While they may have unanswered questions, I think we should be at the point where, in the near future, we would hope for Chief Beckner to tell us that the investigation of this family is exhausted and they can try to live their lives without constantly being under active criminal investigation. They are entitled to that statement, and I think the time for that statement is only a matter of days, if not weeks, away.

John and Patsy Ramsey are innocent, innocent of the death of their child. They need to get about trying to put together some parts of their lives, whatever it may be, after what's happened to them, for their own benefit and for the benefit of their son, their older children, and their new grandbaby.

I've promised you they would answer your questions, and I'm going to let you now ask John and Patsy questions. Go ahead. Anybody want to...

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Patsy, do you think...


WOOD: Hold on one second. Why don't we -- yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Patsy, do you think the umbrella of suspicion will be removed from you? That -- that has been lingering over you for quite some time. Do you feel confident now that will happen in the days or weeks ahead, as Mr. Wood said?


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: What leads you to believe that?

PATSY RAMSEY: Well, I just hope Chief Beckner -- whatever obstacles are in your way that make you think I killed my child, I want to help you get over that, you know. So...

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Do you have any idea who killed your child? Do you and John have any idea -- a good idea as to who killed your child?

JOHN RAMSEY, FATHER OF JONBENET RAMSEY: We have some good leads, but we don't know if any one of those is the one.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Are they people you know?


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Were you able to share that kind of information as -- with the police department? Do you think that this has paved the way for a better relationship today?

JOHN RAMSEY: Well, I hope so. I mean, this is the first time we've met Chief Beckner. I was impressed with him. He's a decent human being. I'm encouraged by that. So I hope so.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: And the first part of the question is did you -- were you able to share information that you think would be helpful that they...

JOHN RAMSEY: We've -- we've shared information all along. We briefly talked about that but not in any great detail.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Do you expect to in the future -- to be open to talk to them?

JOHN RAMSEY: I hope so. We certainly all along have given them everything that we knew that was significant or that -- of interest.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Did both of you -- did both of you talk today? Were both of you interviewed today?



UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: By Kane or by the whole group? JOHN RAMSEY: By the whole group.

PATSY RAMSEY: The whole group.

WOOD: Primarily the questioning was conducted by Bruce Levin, with more active participation by Mark Beckner, and probably on a 100- percent scale, I'd say, about 5 to 10 percent by Michael Kane. Maybe that's the reason we had a better day.


WOOD: Absolutely not.

JOHN RAMSEY: Well -- was anything accomplished?


JOHN RAMSEY: Well, I mean, we -- we got -- this is the first time we sat down with Chief Beckner, and we did so for two days. He didn't have to come out here. We were grateful that he did. That alone has to accomplish something, so...

PATSY RAMSEY: I have a better opinion of Mark Beckner having met him and looked him in the eye and...

JOHN RAMSEY: You know, we were...

PATSY RAMSEY: ... speaking with him, you know, so I think that...

JOHN RAMSEY: We were very...

PATSY RAMSEY: ... that's helpful.

JOHN RAMSEY: Excuse me. I'm sorry. We were very distrustful of the Boulder police from very horrible actions in the beginning, and in reality, most of those people are gone, so we were just -- this was refreshing to us to see that these guys are pretty professional.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Did Beckner indicate to you that he is finished interrogating you and your wife?

JOHN RAMSEY: No, he -- he said, you know, "Until we catch the killer, we're never finished with anybody." He told me that no one has been cleared in this investigation.

PATSY RAMSEY: Of murder.

JOHN RAMSEY: Of murder, but...


JOHN RAMSEY: Sure. Look, you know, we will never clear our names, I mean, after what's been done to us, and that's not our purpose. You know, we -- we hope desperately that the killer will be found, but we didn't come here to prove our innocence. That's -- but to the degree that we can get the police focused on looking at someone else besides us, then we will have accomplished something.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Did they ask you specific questions about other possible suspects during these one and a half...

JOHN RAMSEY: Yes, they did.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: And did -- were you able to help them?

JOHN RAMSEY: I hope so. I don't know. I mean, I hope so.

WOOD: We submitted a 50-page report back in May of this year to the Boulder Police Department with respect to the investigative efforts that John and Patsy have financed over the past several months and years. Just recently, that was supplemented with additional information.

We have all along provided them with significant information -- what we thought was significant literally from -- from the early part of the investigation. So, you know, there was some additional questioning today about those individuals and information.

But the fact is while a lot of people out there have not believed that this family had their own investigation because there's a lot of cynics that say, "Well, it sounds like a -- somebody else that claimed that, and he -- no real investigation" -- they've had a real investigation. There's a real investigator standing right back here that's been paid full time, even though their finances are dwindling.

So they've done their part, but the truth of the matter is we've reached the stage where it is now in the hands of the Boulder Police Department. They cannot alone find the killer of their child. The Boulder Police Department can. We hope they will.

But we hope they acknowledge that they've done all they can do to this family. It's time to give them some peace of mind, at least to tell them they're not under active investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: You've given them names then, Mr. Wood? you have given them specific names of possible...

WOOD: Not names of suspects. We have given them leads. They'll have to determine whether those individuals are viable suspects. That's a police determination, not the determination made by this family or their investigators.

Anyone else? All right.


PATSY RAMSEY: Oh, absolutely. I just -- that's the whole reason we're here. I want to find out who did this to my daughter. I wanted to be proud -- I wanted her to be proud of us, that we're persisting in finding out who did this. UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Can you tell us (INAUDIBLE) that you, not even so much as your husband, but you had something to do with the murder of your daughter?

PATSY RAMSEY: I don't know. I asked Chief Beckner that very question, and he said, "Well, it's no one thing. It's just a lot of little things."


PATSY RAMSEY: No, and I said, "Well, whatever those little things are, I want to help you get beyond that." I don't know what it could be.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Do you feel satisfied that they have moved beyond that now, or do you feel like they still have this doubt about you?

PATSY RAMSEY: I think they still have the doubt. I mean, they -- they've been down this road for so long, you know. One or two mornings talking with them, I don't think, is going to make them do an abrupt about face. I think the only thing that is going to make them completely change their mind is to hand over the killer, and I can't do that.


JOHN RAMSEY: No. No, we're not angry. I mean, we're -- we certainly would have rather been doing something else because a lot of the questioning was...


JOHN RAMSEY: Well, it wasn't leading anywhere as far as we could tell or productive, but that was largely coming from the prosecution side. I mean, we're -- I was -- I told the police, "I'm grateful that you're here. Thank you for keep looking for my daughter's killer." I mean, the last thing we want to have happen is for this to end up in a file drawer somewhere, so...

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: What do you say to people who say that this is just another P.R. move on your part, that...

JOHN RAMSEY: Well, why would we do that? Why would we do that? We want peace for our family. We want closure. For three and a half years, our -- our name and our family's name has been destroyed. We'll never regain that, and -- and we have no interest in attempting to do that. We want the killer of our daughter found. It's very simple.

PATSY RAMSEY: They said they needed our help. We were here to help.

WOOD: Only a fool would subject themselves to two days of a police interrogation with seven interrogators simply to do some sort of P.R. stunt. These people are not fools, and I don't think last time I checked I was a fool.

We went out and agreed to do what the police asked these people to do to help this investigation. They put themselves at legal risk in doing so because they are under suspicion. They did this to help find the killer of their daughter and to help the police complete their investigation of this family. There's no P.R. stunt involved.

It's time for the media to understand at least a couple of things about John and Patsy Ramsey. Number one, contrary to the repeated statements made, this family has for years cooperated with this investigation. They may not have done it exactly the way police always wanted it done, but days in 1997, days in 1998, now days in 2000, they've answered questions when no one else forced them to do so. They've done it voluntarily.

And I think they ought to get credit for that because a lot of folks in your business have hit them pretty hard claiming they didn't cooperate. I hope you'll go out tomorrow and you'll give them due credit for what they have subjected themselves to in the desire to help this investigation.

Thank you very much. That's it. Let's go.


COSSACK: John and Patsy Ramsey after finishing up and completing two days of interrogation. We -- if you will, with the Boulder Police Department, as well as the prosecuting attorney Michael Kane. They attempted to answer several questions from -- from the press, as well as obviously trying to answer all of the police questions.

And, of course, one of the interesting questions, Greta, that no one asked them is why they wouldn't answer any questions about the forensic evidence if they hadn't seen the results, why they put limits on that particular...

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, Roger, I mean, that makes abundant sense. Look, these police from day one have targeted them. The police are convinced that they are the killers. In fact, even Patsy said in response to a question that she didn't think she had changed the viewpoint of the police, and the one thing that -- that -- a good lawyer would do -- would stop them from answering a question which might be an attempt to ambush or trick and...

COSSACK: Well, let me follow up on that by saying if -- that's true, and I think you're absolutely right in the way you describe it, but why...

VAN SUSTEREN: Then why are you questioning me?

COSSACK: ... why would you have them talk anyway? I mean, why would you have them go in there and give the...

VAN SUSTEREN: Because I -- I would...

COSSACK: ... speech for two and a half days and say, "But you know what? If I'm -- I really want to convince you that I'm innocent, but there are some questions that I don't want to answer."

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I -- because I don't -- I don't think it's that simplistic. I have spoken to the lawyer, I have spoken to the Ramseys in the past, and I have been following this case very closely and talking to the prosecutors, and I think what you have that happened here is I think the Ramseys wanted to speak out, and I think Lin Wood said, "Don't do it. You are the target," and every lawyer --

And Kenny, you know, you'll agree with me, I'm sure, is that you don't want the innocent clients talking to the press, you don't want guilty clients talking to the press, you don't want innocent ones talking to the police or guilty ones talking to the police.

And I think what happened is that the Ramseys, against the legal advice, spoke to them but that the lawyer stepped in and -- and stopped when the issue of a possible forensic...

COSSACK: Did they really know the complete answer to...

VAN SUSTEREN: No, the lawyer didn't -- no, that the lawyer didn't know. The lawyer had no idea where it was coming...

Kenny, what's your reaction?

KENNY ROBINSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, two. One, they qualify for Mr. Wood's definition of a fool because he said only a fool would do that...


ROBINSON: ... and he told them not to do it. So he defined his own clients as fools.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, no. What he said is only a fool would do it for purposes of public relations, is...

ROBINSON: Yeah, it is a public...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... the -- was his complete statement.

ROBINSON: It is a public relations gimmick. Why did they have all this press? Why didn't they just meet them in private somewhere?

VAN SUSTEREN: The -- wait. They didn't invite the...

ROBINSON: It was all a public relations gimmick. If you're going to go over Niagara Falls on a barrel, you don't tie a rope to it so you don't get hurt.


ROBINSON: They should answer the questions -- any questions period -- with no ground rules if it's not P.R. They're just pulling their punches, making sure they look good in the public eye, but they're afraid of what their answers will lead into if they don't know the answer to the forensic proof. So I have to agree with Roger on that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right.

COSSACK: Boy, how do you like it? I got Kenny agreeing with me.


VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I...

ROBINSON: That means you'll never win a case if you go back to...

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, though, the -- Kenny, the problem is that when you have clients, I mean, who maintain that they're innocent and may very well be innocent, is they want -- some of them want to talk. They -- I mean...

ROBINSON: Well, that's -- politicians are generally the ones that -- when they get indicted, they always will go in -- want to go to the grand jury and talk.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you give these people no presumption of innocence, Kenny?

ROBINSON: Who? These...

VAN SUSTEREN: The Ramseys.

ROBINSON: The Ramseys? I find it...

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you give them no presumption of...

ROBINSON: I find it very difficult to believe that they don't know something about who the killer is since they were in the house and they coincidentally found the body the way they did. So...

VAN SUSTEREN: Let -- let me just interrupt...

ROBINSON: I would gladly defend them if they got charged, but...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... you for one second.

We've got to go to Martin Savidge who now has breaking news on the Wen Ho Lee case.

Go ahead, Marty. Marty.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Martin Savidge outside of the Albuquerque, New Mexico, courthouse where just a few minutes ago during the hearing for accused Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee -- it was a bail hearing -- there has been a dramatic turn of events.

Now, apparently, the attorneys for the U.S. government have said that they have requested a stay on the bail process, and it appears that they are laying some groundwork where they would like to appeal last Thursday's decision by a U.S. district judge saying that Mr. Lee was eligible for bail. It appears now that the U.S. government is trying to prevent him being released.

Mr. Lee is accused of allegedly illegally downloading some top- secret nuclear weapons information when he worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This is 1993 and 1994. Much of that information has never been retired. The concern of the U.S. government and on the part of the judge had always been that, if Mr. Lee was released on bail, he might somehow gain access to that information and pass it along to another source.

So, as it stands now, the hearing that, it was thought, was going to bring about the release of Mr. Lee has come to an abrupt end, and it appears that government attorneys are planning to file for an appeal to block any release of Mr. Lee from jail before his trial in November.

This is Martin Savidge reporting live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, we've been listening to Martin Savidge, and on the screen, it says that the government is issuing a stay. That, of course, is incorrect. The government is asking the court to issue a stay.

Last week, a federal judge did say that Wen Ho Lee is eligible for release. Today, they were going to debate whether or not he would be released, under what conditions, but now the government is asking the court -- the lower court to hold that decision.

They're going to go to the court of appeals and ask the court of appeals to hold Wen Ho Lee in jail pending trial.

We're going to take a break. We'll be right back. Stay with us.


VAN SUSTEREN: Today in Atlanta, John and Patsy Ramsey again met with Boulder officials investigating the 1996 death of their daughter JonBenet and, of course, just moments ago, ended their discussion with the investigators and came outside and answered questions for the press.

Let's go to Denver where Dan Caplis is standing by.

Dan, why do you think the Ramseys agreed to this investigation or interrogation or questioning, what -- however we characterize it?

DAN CAPLIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think because Patsy Ramsey is obsessed with the spotlight, was long before JonBenet was killed, and now she just can't let it go. She will do...

VAN SUSTEREN: Wait a second.

CAPLIS: ... or say anything to stay in the spotlight.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me stop you right there. I mean, that's great pop psychology where we lawyers can sit around a bar room and talk about our clients and everything and make our -- but do you have any evidence?

CAPLIS: I do, and you know as well as I, Greta, part of our job as a lawyer is to figure out what's motivating our client and what's motivating the other side. If you're a lawyer, you've got a client here who wants to be answering questions from the media on national TV when she's the prime suspect in a murder case?


CAPLIS: What's going on here? Well, it -- to answer your question specifically, before JonBenet was killed, you've got Patsy Ramsey out there as a consummate Little League parent, JonBenet in these pageants, Patsy clearly trying to live out her pageant dreams, JonBenet getting sexed up in these pageants, so I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and let me -- let me just...

CAPLIS: ... this is a woman who won't let go of the spotlight.

VAN SUSTEREN: And let me just add something that you told me during the break and -- just so that -- is that you're a good friend of Steve Thomas who wrote the book -- who is the detective who's come out and written a book that essentially echoes your thoughts.

COSSACK: Yeah. Is that why...

VAN SUSTEREN: But anyway...

COSSACK: Is that why you're saying what you're saying, because you're friends with a guy who wrote a book, or do you really believe this?

CAPLIS: Oh, I absolutely believe that, and I think the facts are clear that this was a woman who loved the spotlight. That doesn't make her a murderer, but I think it helps explain why she's putting herself in legal jeopardy...


CAPLIS: ... by popping up on LARRY KING with Steve Thomas and doing things like she did today.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you -- I mean, is it beyond your realm of -- of consideration that maybe this is a woman who has -- is trying to basically do anything to get the police to look elsewhere, to look at other possible clues, or -- I mean, there are some strange things about this case.

CAPLIS: No, it is beyond the realm of consideration, Greta, because Patsy Ramsey, to her credit, and I think she handled herself well today, just admitted that, that doing these interviews isn't going to move the police off her, in her words. Mark Beckner still thinks she's guilty. So they knew coming in this interview wasn't going to move the police off them, so why do it? COSSACK: Larry, the interviews are over. Where -- what happens next?

LARRY MERTES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: What happens next is I think they go back and -- and work on this forensic evidence that -- that was the key.

And, you know, for me, Roger, what was interesting is -- is I think the reason they did the -- the interviews was it gave Lin Wood a chance to look at what the prosecution was now focusing on. I think he's -- he's being a wolf and going into the sheep pen and trying to see and, of course, -- and then very critically and creatively denying any response to the -- the questions the police wanted to ask about the forensic evidence.

COSSACK: You know, that's the first answer I've heard about why this was done...

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what? I've got to tell you -- I mean -- unfortunately, we're out of time. We've got five lawyers here and, apparently, I'm the only one who still gives credit to the presumption of innocence.

COSSACK: But you always do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway -- but, anyway, that's all the time we have. I'm going to take the last word. Thanks to our guests, and thank you very much for watching.

Tonight on CNN "NEWSSTAND," screenwriter Joe Esterhaus has a message of his Hollywood friends: Don't send your cash to the Gore- Lieberman campaign. Tonight on CNN "NEWSSTAND," Esterhaus explains what he describes as, quote, "veiled threats" of censorship. Phone in or e-mail with your questions. That's at 10:00 p.m.

COSSACK: And this afternoon on "TALKBALK LIVE," vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman is being asked to stop hawking his faith on the campaign trail. Now does religion have a place in politics? That's at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

And we'll be back tomorrow with another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.



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