JonBenet Ramsey Update: Colo. judge says indictment in unsolved murder of girl, 6, should be public

JonBenet Ramsey

(CBS/AP) BOULDER, Colo. - A Weld County judge ruled Thursday that a secret indictment in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey should be made public.

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Releasing the indictment wouldn't violate grand-jury secrecy rules, Judge Robert Lowenbach ruled in a challenge to the secrecy of a 1999 indictment that never resulted in a prosecution in the 6-year-old's death.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit from Daily Camera reporter Charlie Brennan and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press . They want to make public the un-prosecuted indictment of John and Patsy Ramsey on charges of child abuse resulting in death. They want to compel Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett to release the indictment.

A grand jury voted in 1999 to indict the slain girl's parents. However, then-District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to sign the document and prosecute the Ramseys.

JonBenet was found dead Dec. 26, 1996, in the basement of her family's home hours after she was reported missing. Her killer hasn't been identified.

The newspaper isn't participating in the lawsuit.

Chief Trial Deputy Sean Finn, the custodian of records for the Boulder County District Attorney's Office, argued that the grand jury's oath of secrecy still stood and that releasing the requested document could negatively affect future grand juries.

In his ruling, Lowenbach wrote that the Colorado Supreme Court has declared that the reasons for grand jury secrecy are to prevent the escape of those who might be indicted, to encourage witnesses to come forward, to encourage uninhibited discussion of a case, and to prevent disclosure of derogatory information against someone who has not been indicted.

The judge ordered Garnett to show why he should not be required to disclose the requested documents.

"Transparency of a prosecutor's decision not to proceed with an indictment from the grand jury is in the public interest," Lowenbach concluded.

Garnett previously rejected two requests by the Camera and Brennan seeking the release of the indictment under the Colorado Open Records Act.

"It's a complicated situation and the most important thing in my office is complying with the law," Garnett said Thursday. "We just want to make sure we comply with all our legal obligations."

Complete coverage of the JonBenet Ramsey case on Crimesider