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Sound And Fury In Ramsey Case

There is a lot of sound and fury surrounding the JonBenet Ramsey investigation in the wake of the week's police and prosecution interviews of John and Patsy Ramsey in Atlanta. But I don't think it signifies much of anything likely to solve the murder mystery anytime soon.

For instance, the fact that the Ramseys' attorney, Lin Wood, got into a shouting match during Patsy Ramsey's interview with special prosecutor Michael Kane, doesn't amount to a hill of beans as far as the investigation goes.

Hundreds and hundreds of lawyers each and every weekday in this country get into fights during depositions, which is what the Ramseys' interviews really were. Some stand up in some conference room somewhere and point a finger at their counterparts and threaten in real or fake anger to leave the interview (which is what Kane did.)

Others take suspiciously quick umbrage at opposing counsel and, knowing that the videotape cameras are rolling, make smarmy, self-serving and condescending speeches (which is what Wood did.)

Rarely does this posturing play a significant role in a case or investigation. I cannot imagine that such shenanigans will do so here. And I wish someone would explain to me how it helps the Ramseys to have their lawyer antagonize one of the few people on this earth, Michael Kane. He actually does have a say in whether or not Patsy Ramsey still ought to be indicted for an alleged role in the crime.

Other stories reported the Ramseys handing over to investigators a pair of boots the Ramseys apparently believe might have belonged to their child's killer.

Now, that would have been quite a development, since the cops have been looking for years for a pair of boots which match a partial unaccounted-for footprint found in the basement of the home where JonBenet was killed.

The problem is that Boulder officials are saying that the boots handed over belong to a fellow who has since committed suicide and whose DNA does not match anything at the crime scene. So much for that theory.

Then there is all this hullabaloo about Patsy Ramsey "challenging" the authorities to put up or shut up, by either indicting her or clearing her. This sounds more significant than it really is. Apart from confessing to the crime or offering some evidence which helps prove a case against someone else, Patsy Ramsey has no more say in whether the prosecutors in Boulder, Colorado will bring a case than do you or I.

And if my read of those authorities is correct, they are certainly not going to be goaded into bringing a case against Ramsey or anyone else until and unless they have the evidence necessary to win at trial. If Boulder officials had such evidence, of course, then they already would have brought those charges. Patsy Ramsey's challenge, in other words, doesn't make the case against her or anyone else any stronger or weaker. It has no evidentiary value. It means a lot on the news but nothing in court.

Instead, her strident omments Thursday seem to me to be part of a concerted strategy on the part of Team Ramsey to portray themselves now as wholly persecuted, frustrated and hounded by Boulder police and prosecutors. I guess that the idea is to portray them - accurately or not - as innocent victims: not only of their daughter's murder but of the prejudgment of all those who think that they have something to do with that murder. The
Ramseys have tried to make this argument before to the public, but never to such a coordinated extent.

The first phase of this strategy was Wood's public denouncement of Kane on Monday, when the former called the latter all sorts of nasty names. The second phase occurred on Wednesday when Wood released videotaped portions of the Ramsey interviews apparently in order to try to convince the court of public opinion that the Ramseys were being unfairly attacked by investigators during the session. And the third prong of the attack was Patsy Ramsey's dare. Maybe this PR strategy will take the public heat off the Ramseys. But it's a red herring when it comes to the investigation itself.

All of this sound and fury, actually, is a red herring. Until we know what exactly the investigators asked the Ramseys this week and what the Ramseys said in response to those questions; until we actually see significant portions of the videotapes; and until the authorities in Boulder disclose their specific impressions of the interviews, it is virtually impossible to analyze or dissect what this week means in relation to the hundreds of weeks which preceded it in this case.

By Andrew Cohen ©2000, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved

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