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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Tabloid Reporting in the JonBenet Ramsey Case

     We believe some prosecutors [in the JonBenet Ramsey case] thought their job was to "get the indictment," and tabloid media published unverified sensational accusations, first for profit and then in a desperate attempt to protect themselves from prosecution by us [John and Patsy Ramsey] for libel and slander, which only an indictment of us would stop.

     In mid-Novembver 1999, we held one of those tabloids accountable by filing a lawsuit against the Star in federal court in Atlanta for their blaring headline "JonBenet was killed by brother Burke," long after the police had officially and publicly cleared our son. The tabloids had figured out that "Burke sells," so they embarked on a smear campaign against a twelve-year-old child.

     On May 25, 1999, the Star had run a story with a front-page photograph of JonBenet and Burke and this headline. The article said that Burke was being looked at as the prime suspect. They told how JonBenet had wet her bed on Christmas night and crawled into bed with our son. Then Burke, they said, let loose his pent-up resentment of his sister and killed her. They cited the "fact" that Burke's Swiss army knife was found next to JonBenet's body, as evidence. 

     After that, the Star ran two other articles, one entitled, "Sad Twisted Life of JonBenet's Brother" on June 1, and the other, "What Burke Saw on the Night of JonBenet's Murder" on June 8. Obviously, these articles also subjected our son to public hatred, contempt, and ridicule. 

     Almost a month later, on June 22, after our attorney had written to the Star, the tabloid ran a small retraction, saying oops, our sources were wrong, and admitting that the district attorney's office had unequivocally stated that Burke was not a suspect in the murder. But they never said that the facts about him were untrue. 

     We as a society may let these tabloid organizations attack movie stars without retribution, but our children? I hope not. 

John and Patsy Ramsey, The Death of Innocence, 2000
    

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