JonBenet grand jury to resume deliberations Wednesday
Prosecutors called back twice by jurors
October 13, 1999
BOULDER, Colorado (CNN) -- The grand jury investigating the 1996 killing of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey will reconvene Wednesday, amid expectations that action in the case could come at any time.
A "media free zone" was set up outside the Justice Center for the first time -- with signs posted along the sidewalk leading into the building to keep reporters and crews away from grand jurors.
Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter and his prosecutors were called to the grand jury room twice during Tuesday's deliberations, observers said, presumably to answer questions.
But the panel of eight women and four men broke off deliberations in the late afternoon with no word on what transpired.
The grand jury, which ended a four-month hiatus when it reconvened in late September, did not meet on Monday, but did gather on Thursday and Friday last week in sessions one prosecutor called "deliberations."
Consultants who have been advising Boulder prosecutors speculate the grand jury will issue a decision this week.
Since the panel was first convened 13 months ago, Hunter has presented 30,000 pieces of evidence plus testimony from dozens of witnesses.
Dr. Henry Lee, a criminalist advising the prosecution's investigation team, predicted Tuesday the grand jury would wind up this week but he offered no prediction on what action it might take.
"In general there are some elements missing. But we have cases that have less evidence than this case that are successful and others with more evidence that don't get indictments," said Lee.
Lee, a forensic scientist who is an expert in crime-scene reconstruction and DNA analysis, has been one of the nation's most renowned criminalists for many years, but achieved celebrity status as an expert witness hired by the defense in the O.J. Simpson murder case.
Interviewed by CNN on Tuesday at his office in Middletown, Connecticut, Lee noted the investigation has been hampered by "inherent problems" from the start -- beginning with a contaminated crime scene -- that makes it more difficult to predict the outcome.
Lee also wants people to know that murder cases like JonBenet Ramsey don't often get solved as quickly as they do in TV shows, by the "third commercial."
Some cases, he said, become "Unsolved Mysteries."
Lee spoke of one recent case he was involved in that was solved 17 minutes after he arrived at the crime scene -- and another that took 26 years. "A lot of time, you can't really predict," Lee said. "A lot of cases go unsolved."
From the very beginning of the process, it was Hunter's intention to present all of the evidence gathered -- not just parts of it -- before asking grand jurors to make any decision, CNN has learned.
Usually, grand jurors are only presented with the minimum amount of evidence prosecutors believe is necessary to win an indictment.
"(Hunter) simply wants to be thorough just to protect himself and because he wants to be absolutely certain, in this very visible case, that he's doing the right thing," said law professor Christopher Mueller of the University of Colorado.
The panel has until October 20 to issue indictments, issue a report or disband without taking action.
"The length of time the grand jury has spent on this case and the care the prosecutor took in presenting the case to the grand jury do suggest it's a very difficult case," Mueller told CNN.
Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant, one of four DAs advising Hunter, declined to predict what the grand jury might do.
"This is an independent group of people and the jury is going to do whatever the heck it wants to do," Grant said on CNN's "Burden of Proof."
Even if the jury does not issue an indictment, Hunter is expected to continue his investigation.
Boulder city and county officials say the almost three-year investigation cost nearly $2 million, making it the most expensive case in local history.
JonBenet, a child beauty contestant once crowned "Little Miss Colorado," was found strangled, bound and beaten in her home on December 26, 1996, about seven hours after her mother called 911 to report the girl was missing.
She told police she had found a two-and-a-half page note demanding $118,000 for JonBenet's safe return.
Hunter has previously said the girl's parents -- John and Patsy Ramsey -- are "under an umbrella of suspicion."
The Ramseys have both said they are innocent.
Police costs relating to JonBenet homicide top $1.3 million
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