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Burden of Proof

Will Prosecutors Answer Patsy Ramsey's Challenge?

Aired August 31, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET


ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF, Patsy Ramsey issues a challenge to prosecutors to put her on trial and get it over with.


PATSY RAMSEY, MOTHER OF JONBENET RAMSEY: One or two mornings talking with them I don't think's 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.



LIN WOOD, RAMSEY FAMILY ATTORNEY: Mr. Kane, are you now ready to state that you are prepared to file criminal charges against John and Patsy Ramsey? It's time for you to answer that question. And you owe that answer to the American public and to this family.



MICHAEL KANE, RAMSEY CASE PROSECUTOR: Mr. Wood, neither I nor Chief Beckner are going to be directed by you or by your client or by anybody else as to when it would be appropriate to file criminal charges. When we reach the point, as every prosecutor in the country recognizes, when we reach the point where there is an individual against whom we can prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, we will file the charges.


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

COSSACK: Hello, and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF. Patsy Ramsey has issued a challenge to Boulder prosecutors. She told "USA Today" if they think she killed JonBenet -- quote -- "Let's have a trial and get it over with."

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: The legal sparring has continued since the interviews with Patsy and John Ramsey ended on Tuesday afternoon. The feud was escalated yesterday when Ramsey attorney Lin Wood released videotapes of the interviews to BURDEN OF PROOF and other media.


KANE: Mr. Wood, you're an obstructionist.

WOOD: Let me finish, Mike. I'm not an obstructionist.

KANE: You go out there and you tell these press people that they cooperated, and I will go out and tell them what really happened in here.

WOOD: Well, Mr. Kane, what's happening here is you're going -- looking to storm out for no reason.

KANE: No, no, I'm not going to storm out because I can't ask a question...

WOOD: Mike, take five minutes. Take five minutes and just be reasonable enough to listen to...

KANE: Look, I don't need this. It's a game.


COSSACK: And joining us today from Atlanta is "USA Today" reporter Kevin Johnson. His interview with Patsy Ramsey is on the front page of today's edition. And in Boston, we're joined by criminal defense attorney Henry Owens.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here in Washington, we're joined by David Stillman (ph), former federal prosecutor Marty Rogers, and criminal defense attorney Kenny Robinson. And in our back row, Cara Jordan, Nicole Asserta (ph) and Brook Glowsby (ph).

Let me go first to you, Kevin. You interviewed Patsy and John Ramsey. Can you tell me sort of the tone? I know that Patsy has sort of issued a challenge to sort of get on with it: either a trial or no trial. But when you spoke to them, what was their tone?

KEVIN JOHNSON, "USA TODAY": I think the tone was more frustration than anything. I think that they felt that the interviews that they participated in had not accomplished at least what they came into the room looking to do. And that was to redirect the investigation away from them.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Kevin, in terms of an interrogation by a prosecutor, an interview, depending on which side you are what you call it, there's a big difference between prosecutors coming to discredit you and prosecutors coming to look for in fact. Did they think that the prosecutors were there to look for information rather than to discredit them or the other way around?

JOHNSON: Well, from what they told me, their feeling was that the prosecutors came there with new information that they wanted to ask the Ramseys about. Patsy Ramsey and John Ramsey indicated to me that what was clear from the start of the interrogations -- although I wasn't in the room -- that they were interested in going over some old ground. They called it old lines of inquiry that they felt like they had been -- that had been asked and answered a long time ago.

COSSACK: Kevin, why do you think Patsy Ramsey and the Ramseys spoke with you at all? I mean, what do you think they were attempting to accomplish?

JOHNSON: Well, I think it's -- I think it's part of an extension of their interviews with prosecutors. Their interest is in trying to redirect the investigation away from them. And as much as they can say to try to do that, whether it's in a conference room with prosecutors or with reporters, I think that is probably what they want to do.

COSSACK: But, Kevin, it's one thing to try and redirect it by speaking with prosecutors, it's another thing to speak with a reporter who has as much access to the public as you do. It would seem to me that in speaking with you, the redirection is from what the public thinks about the Ramseys.

JOHNSON: Right, right. And they pulled no punches about that. They felt like they were -- that they would be criticized for talking with the press indicating that they probably would be criticized for trying to continue what Mr. Kane called a publicity stunt earlier in the conference room. So, no doubt, I think that that's on the table, and we realize that going in and talking to them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Marty, last night on "LARRY KING LIVE," Larry was questioning Michael Kane and Lin Wood, Lin Wood being the lawyer for the Ramseys and Michael Kane being the special prosecutor. Both of the lawyers said last night on "LARRY KING" that they will seek release of the transcripts of what they Ramseys said during this videotape. We've only seen so far video of the lawyers fighting. What do you make of the release of the transcripts if indeed that happens?

MARTY ROGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The release of the transcripts that they just did this week?

VAN SUSTEREN: That's right.

ROGERS: You know, I don't see why that's problematic at all. I thought that they were trying to seek the release of grand jury, secret confidential grand jury information.

VAN SUSTEREN: And they're also seeking as well.

ROGERS: Well, of course, that's a more difficult thing because the court has to rule on that. The way that this thing was set up in Atlanta earlier this week, I think that all they have to do is just release it. I mean, Lin Wood released part of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it wise, Kenny, do you think, if -- I mean, if by any chance that the rules so permit the release of the grand jury transcript, who wins, who loses? What's the point?

KENNETH ROBINSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, first, I don't think they're going to release the grand jury transcripts. I've never heard of them doing that in any case and I doubt that they're going to do that. I think what's happening is the Ramseys have a feeling, and my prediction here is that the mother in particular is worried that there's going to be charges coming in the near future and she's doing a media blitz to try to sack the Denver boys.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kenny, you always say -- you and I always debate this particular issue. I mean...

ROBINSON: It's clearly public relations.

VAN SUSTEREN: Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?

ROBINSON: Well, let's give her the presumption of innocence.


ROBINSON: What she's doing here right now is clearly publicity to try to put the offensive team -- which is the prosecutor -- on the defensive. Why would you release the content of the video? Why would those prosecutors in the first place even let them have the video...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me tell you. He answered both those questions.

ROBINSON: ... so they can put these attacks on the media. They shouldn't be doing that.

VAN SUSTEREN: First of all, the Ramseys didn't release the video; their lawyer did it. That's the first thing.

ROBINSON: Oh, yes, come on, OK, OK.

VAN SUSTEREN: The second thing...

ROBINSON: I'm not releasing this, you are.

VAN SUSTEREN: Secondly, what the Ramseys say is that the reason they wanted to do this questioning is because they want to encourage the Boulder police to look at other pieces of information, other evidence. That's what they say is their point.

ROBINSON: Then why don't they answer the forensic questions? Because they don't know the answers, that's why. They're only answering what they can answer. It's a set up. They're going to be charged. One of them is going to be charged. And they're trying to get the public's sentiment behind them. Why would I ask to be charged if I'm guilty. I must be innocent. That's where it's going.

VAN SUSTEREN: Henry Owens, do you want to get in on this debate?

ROBINSON: His smirk says he disagrees. HENRY OWENS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, you have to understand the Boulder, Colorado police, they've been involved in this case for four years. They've made a presentment to a grand jury and evidently, there wasn't enough evidence for that grand jury to return an indictment. So the bottom line: the Boulder Police do not have a strong case against the Ramseys. And I agree with the Ramseys. Four years has gone by. They have been labeled the prime suspect, the mother accused of killing her daughter. It's time for you to either present your evidence if you have a case against me and bring one forward. Four years of investigation. Enough is enough.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we have to take a break. Kevin Johnson of "USA Today," thank you for joining us today from Atlanta.

Up next, why are the lawyers fighting over fiber evidence? Stay with us.


On this day in 1888, London serial killer "Jack the Ripper" claimed prostitute Mary Ann Nichols as his first victim. In the following months, there were four other victims, but no suspect was ever found. In 1892, the file of "Jack the Ripper" was closed.



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.


WOOD: Mr. Kane, we're both trying to do our jobs under very unusual and difficult circumstances.

KANE: Right. So my job is not to stand in the way of the truth.

WOOD: Well, if you are implying that my job is to obstruct the truth, I take that as a professional insult and you will not be staying in this office. You didn't come here to insult me, please, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: During the course of the two-days of testimony, the lawyers for the Ramseys and the prosecuting attorney got into a fight over lots of things, including forensic test results.

Marty, during the questioning of the Ramseys, Michael Kane, the special prosecutor, sought to ask Patsy Ramsey about fiber evidence and Lin Wood objected saying that he wanted to know what the test results were before he had his client answer. Why?

ROGERS: Because if you're Lin Wood, you want to know what that forensic evidence is before you let your clients be questioned about it.

COSSACK: Kenny Robinson, why do we answer that?

ROBINSON: Well, what competent prosecutor would agree with that game? It's just nonsense. Lin Wood is good looking and smooth as silk. I mean, he's doing a good trick there but it's not going to work. They're going to charge her. And you better be that good in court.

VAN SUSTEREN: But Kenny, don't you remember the day -- I remember the old days when you used to be a defense attorney before you started coming on BURDEN OF PROOF, becoming a prosecutor.

ROGERS: Well, I changed my opinion when I lost 49, 50 cases in a row. I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know, as I recall in the old days, Kenny, when you and I used to practice almost together, we always feared the prosecutors would ask trick questions and that they wouldn't disclose exactly why they were asking something. And there's always the risk that a prosecutor is setting a trap and an unfair trap. So why not put all the cards on the table. Why don't the prosecutors say, "Look, this is the fiber evidence test results. Now let me ask you the question."

ROBINSON: Because the prosecutor has the ball and the serve. It's a game.

COSSACK: And why even be talking to the prosecutor? Why expect the prosecutor suddenly not to be a prosecutor?

ROBINSON: You've got this calm lake out there except for you writing a book, which you shouldn't have done while you're trying to figure out who killed your daughter, who didn't. All of a sudden, you start raising all this turmoil, videotaping, releasing videotapes, challenging the prosecutor, but refusing to answer any questions in this truthful search for the truth that deal with forensic because you don't know the answer. It leads to -- I hate to say it leads to their guilt.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think what Lin Wood would say is that they would answer the question truthfully but don't hide the test results from us. Let's find out what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is.

But let me get Henry in since Henry seems to be the only one who agrees with me. Henry, do you think that the prosecution has an obligation, not a legal obligation, but a moral obligation under this sort of setting to reveal the fiber test results before asking the Ramseys a question or not?

OWENS: Well, I think it's very unfair. They agreed to this setup, this interview, the questions, lawyers are going to be present, videotape, et cetera. Why would you then, if you're a defense counsel, permit your client to answer a hypothetical question without having the benefit of what the results of this test were.

COSSACK: Henry, why would you permit your client to talk to the prosecutor in the first place?

OWENS: Well, No. 1, I would never have my clients talk to a prosecutor.

COSSACK: So why are you so shocked that if you're going to be -- you know, if Lin Wood has so little control over his client -- I mean, I'm not sure how they got to this position but that the prosecutor is going to come in and say, "Hey, listen. You know what? We let you talk about fiber results. We think you're as guilty as can be and we're not going to tell you what those fiber results are. But that's OK. Come in and talk to us anyway," and they did.

OWENS: Because I think as a public relations standpoint, the attorney for the Ramseys wanted to say, "We are cooperating in this investigation. We want to find out who the true killers were. But wait a minute, we're not going to answer any hypothetical questions." So they gave them a little and they took away a little.


ROBINSON: Yes, but Bill Clinton cooperated until they asked about Monica. I mean, it's a silly -- it's a silly point. Any experienced lawyer, you knew what those ground rules of this interview that the prosecutor is not going to show you his trump card. He's going to try to trap you. That is the history of prosecutions. And when did morality get into prosecution? It's not there. Who are we kidding?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not saying necessarily morality is but there are different -- I mean, this is a bizarre case. I mean, this is not -- this interview was not conducted under oath. It wasn't conducted before a grand jury. It wasn't conducted on a witness stand. It's this bizarre thing that we've gotten to. We've had a grand jury sit, apparently return no indictment. At least we have no information about it. It has gotten to a very bizarre posture to the point where...

Marty, what do you think about the lawyers? They were duking it out last night on "LARRY KING." They're releasing videotapes of one trying to get up and leave.

ROGERS: Well, I don't know that that advances the cause, but I thought about this on the ride over here about why I believe the Ramseys should not be charged, why I don't believe they did it. And the driver and I concluded that he agreed with me, that if I were going to kill my child, I would not leave my child in the house. I would have that child out in the woods somewhere so it looks like they were at least kidnapped from the house.

VAN SUSTEREN: But wait a second, Marty. There is no sort of blueprint of how you kill your child or don't kill your child. There's no particular blueprint.

ROGERS: Oh, I agree with you. No blueprint.

VAN SUSTEREN: The real issue here, and I think what everyone loses sight of because we've gotten so much publicity, is I think that what happens is that people have lost the presumption of innocence and the fact that we convict people based on evidence.


ROGERS: No, I don't think that's exactly true.

ROBINSON: That's not true.

ROGERS: I think whenever a child is killed, God forbid, people look to the parents because they believe they're the only ones who would motive.

VAN SUSTEREN: And they should. And...

ROGERS: And they should.

VAN SUSTEREN: And they should. But the difference is, is that we also look at evidence -- we have people coming on this show saying, "Well, I think Patsy wants publicity and that's why she's doing it." I mean, we have a lot of these sort of pop psychology rather than looking at what lawyers traditionally look at as evidence.

COSSACK: But, Greta, you've done enough -- I mean, it's what Kenny's saying. You've done enough of this stuff. You know when you're representing your client and you know that that client's the one that the cops are looking at that you do other things besides legal things to protect your client against an indictment. And what Kenny is saying and perhaps I agree is they're zeroing in. Those police are zeroing in. What do you think...

VAN SUSTEREN: Now what's the question...

COSSACK: The question is...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... or the point?

COSSACK: The point is that's exactly why they let her go on TV. That's exactly why this thing turns into what it is...


COSSACK: Why Lin let them go on TV.

VAN SUSTEREN: Lin Wood has said from the very beginning that he advised them not to go on TV and not to...

ROBINSON: Yes, but that's just lawyer talk to look good.

COSSACK: Yes, that's just lawyer's talk. ROBINSON: He's looking good to talk, but when it came time, he could do like the lawyer did for O.J. the first time. When O.J. went in to talk, he got out of the case. Lin Wood didn't get out of the case.

COSSACK: Yes, there's another presumption of innocence.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know if that's why he got out of the case.

ROBINSON: That's why -- he's down in Florida. I think that killer is in Florida.

COSSACK: All right, I think it's time for a break. Up next, the investigation of JonBenet Ramsey's murder. Where does it go from here? Stay with us.


Q: A South Carolina prison guard could face criminal charges for allegedly having sex with which inmate?

A. Susan Smith, who was convicted of killing her two young sons in 1994.


COSSACK: The Boulder County district attorney says he will examine the option of opening a new grand jury investigation of the JonBenet Ramsey case according to the "Daily Camera." Alex Hunter said before making any decisions, he would need to discuss the case with detectives and view all the tapes of this week's interview with John and Patsy Ramsey.

Well, Henry, we don't know if they're going to open up a new grand jury or not but I would like to make this suggestion to you. That this has now become somewhat of a brother love's traveling circus side show, that the lawyers go on television and play the tape and they yell at each other. What does it say about prosecutors and defense lawyers? I mean, I just don't think that this makes the law profession look very good.

OWENS: It may not but I think the bottom line, law enforcement officials do not have a strong case, and that's the bottom line. They agreed with defense counsel interview trying to find additional information, but the bottom line, they don't have a case. That's why the first grand jury didn't indict. And until the indictment is brought back, we're going to have a media circus surrounding this.

VAN SUSTEREN: And let's not forget -- Roger, while you're worried about how the law profession looks, let's not forget, it is the two of us who actually showed it if we're worried about who looks what way as to the lawyers fighting.

COSSACK: Well, we showed something that they released to us with the idea that we do show to the public. We didn't make it.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, no, one forced -- nobody forced us to show it.

OWENS: What I'm saying, this is what the public wants to see.

COSSACK: They released it to us with the intention of us disseminating it to the public. If they didn't make the tape, we would have never had anything to show.

VAN SUSTEREN: We didn't have to show -- we showed it because it's interesting to see the dynamics of what's going on in an important murder case. But the fact is we didn't have to show it so we're up to our eyeballs in it as well.

COSSACK: That's the business we're in.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, let me go to Marty on the issue of a possible grand jury. Can you just like create another grand jury? I mean, how does this work? I mean, in the state of Colorado, you have one grand jury. Apparently, we have no result or we don't know the result. What do you do from there?

ROGERS: Well, I got to tell you, you know I don't really know much about how Colorado grand juries are set up but generally, of course, you can resume -- you can put into place another grand jury to look at the evidence when the grand jury has not -- no true bill.

I mean, if the grand jury had said, "We don't want," you know, "We vote that there should be no indictment," versus, you know, "We're just going to let this fade."

VAN SUSTEREN: If a grand jury has voted no true bill in an ordinary situation even under federal law, can you just keep empaneling grand juries? Is there any sort of stop?

ROGERS: Well, there is internally. The Department of Justice has a rule about going to another grand jury when one grand jury has already said, "This is a terrible case. We're not going to indict." You just have to get certain permissions to go forward again and present it to another grand jury. But you can't go forward to present it to another grand jury.

ROBINSON: Well, you know there's no statute of limitations on murder, Greta. If they get any new evidence, they have a duty to present it to a grand jury, I would think, to solve this tragedy. And so...

VAN SUSTEREN: But in terms of new evidence...

ROBINSON: Who knows what they have if they're playing cat and mouse.

VAN SUSTEREN: There's new evidence...


ROGERS: But they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) forensic. VAN SUSTEREN: When you talk about new evidence, does it have to be new evidence or can it be that you have new information that sheds credibility issues about the charges? Is that new evidence?

ROBINSON: And I think that that was -- the purpose is what do these parents say when they're on the video camera? Is it inconsistent with something that they know it'll be inconsistent, it'll persuade the grand jury that they're not credible now? Who knows? I mean, they had tricks up their sleeve and that's the danger of putting your person in that position to talk. You never let anybody know what your defense is until you put on your defense. Why do you show your hand?

COSSACK: Henry, the notion -- and I think I'm perhaps more critical of the prosecutor of going in there, allowing this thing to be videotaped and then having it -- and then perhaps even participating where it was videotaped and now it's released. I think that could be the kind of thing that hurts the prosecutor's case.

OWENS: I think it does, most definitely. And we had a situation -- this case where the testimony was not even taken under oath. These are just statements being made.

VAN SUSTEREN: But Henry, wait a second, I actually disagree with both of you on this. I mean, anytime the prosecutor can get a subject or target on videotape, you win or lose regardless of whether it's under oath because if it's inconsistent, it's still inconsistent even if you haven't taken the oath.

OWENS: That may be true, Greta...

VAN SUSTEREN: And to that extent, any prosecutor doesn't take every opportunity to talk to a suspect is out of his mind.

OWENS: Yes, that is true. But in this case, I don't think they obtained any incriminating statements.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, we don't know. We haven't seen the video. Hopefully, we'll get to see that videotaped too if Roger hasn't scared them away from releasing them after insulting...

COSSACK: I doubt if I scared these two away from releasing tapes. I think they're probably in the process of making a few more right now.

ROBINSON: A good rule of thumb is you never tape record anybody because almost always, you say something on a tape you regret even if you're the person taping somebody else. It's a dangerous thing to do. Your nonverbals and the words you express, you almost always say, "God, I can't believe I said that."

VAN SUSTEREN: And, of course, it doesn't matter whether you're innocent or guilty.

ROBINSON: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: It hurts either way.

ROBINSON: It's perception. Perception can get you in a lot of trouble.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, well...

COSSACK: Anyway, Greta, we'll agree to disagree on this one, OK?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. And this case will go on for a long time until hopefully someday they will solve the murder of this horrible tragedy. That's all the time we have today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

Tonight on "CNN NEWSSTAND," the unfriendly skies. As Americans embark on a holiday weekend, can the airlines rebound from the delays in their turbulent terminals? Call and e-mail your questions and join me at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.

COSSACK: This afternoon on CNN's "TALKBACK LIVE," is the U.S. military stretched too thin? Well, vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney thinks so. Weigh in at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And tomorrow on BURDEN OF PROOF, a lawsuit over football play books distributed over the Internet. Join us then for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF.



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