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Team Ramsey vs. Team Boulder

Don't hold your breath.

It's possible — anything's possible — but don't expect any major breakthroughs when John and Patsy Ramsey are interviewed by prosecutors and police still searching for who killed the Ramseys' six-year-old daughter, JonBenet, on December 26, 1996.

Don't expect either Ramsey to break down and confess to something — even assuming that they have something to confess to — and don't expect authorities to otherwise whip out a "smoking gun" piece of evidence which will turn the case around and lead to the indictment, prosecution and conviction of the Ramseys or anyone else for this horrible crime.

The interviews simply aren't set up or designed to either elicit any whopper testimony from the Ramseys or give the authorities the opportunity to stun the couple with a Perry Mason moment. Instead, expect both sides to emerge from the process trying to take and hold the high ground in the battle of public opinion this sorry investigation has become.

CBS Legal Consultant
Andrew Cohen

The Ramseys will point to their participation in these interviews as proof that they are ready, willing and able to cooperate with authorities in order to better convince those folks that they will find JonBenet's killer only when they look past the Ramseys as suspects. And the investigators and prosecutors will point to the Ramsey interviews as proof that they are aggressively pursuing the investigation, still following up leads, and still ready, willing and able to stand up to the Ramseys, whom some folks think were treated more favorably by Boulder, Colo., officials when the crime occurred because they were rich and powerful.

Beyond the public relations battle, about the best anyone can realistically hope for when this two-day gabfest is over is that the Ramseys will have helped investigators rule out certain suspects and theories which heretofore have not been ruled out. Now, that sort of progress shouldn't be minimized. Every theory and suspect ruled out allows investigators to focus better on still-viable theories and suspects and in a case like this every bit of renewed focus and energy is desperately needed. But for obvious reasons ruling out suspects isn't nearly as significant as ruling in suspects, especially in a four-year-old investigation.

Colorado officials say that they want to question the Ramseys about some of the comments they made in their book about their daughter's murder. And authorities also suggest that they want to ask the Ramseys about new evidence whch has been discovered and developed in the case since the Ramseys last talked to authorities in June 1998.

These are valid areas for these folks to explore. Whether or not the Ramseys were in any way involved in JonBenet's death, perhaps they did mention something in their book which investigators didn't know about, warranting further explanation and clarification. Likewise, perhaps this "new" evidence prosecutors are talking about needs to be identified or explained by the Ramseys in order to give it more context and meaning and thus more investigative value.

But these topics don't strike me as the type of interview areas likely to raise the roof during a procedure which right or wrong wasn't set up in the first place to produce the most candid responses about the greatest number of issues. Remember, the Ramseys will have their attorney, Lin Wood, present during the questioning and it's hard to imagine the Ramseys' advocate not intervening in the interviews if and when he sees his clients straying into areas likely to cause them consternation down the road.

Indeed, because the Ramseys still are considered criminal suspects in their daughter's death, and because they conceivably could be subjected to civil liability as well, Wood has a solemn duty to protect his clients from saying anything likely to harm their interests, either now or in the future. And because the Ramseys, under the Constitution, could have simply said "no, thanks" to being interviewed in the first place, these interviews aren't going to remind anyone of the kinds of interrogations which take place in police stations every day in this country.

The interviews also aren't going to remind anyone of Law and Order since the topic areas the Ramseys are being questioned about were agreed upon in advance between Team Ramsey and Team Boulder. This means that the Ramseys were unlikely to be surprised by anything asked of them and probably were prepared at length by their attorneys about how to answer certain questions: Don't volunteer information, answer only the question asked of you, don't elaborate, etc. That may run counter to the Ramseys' stated goal of being thoroughly candid with their questioners but it also is good lawyering.

The Ramsey interviews may end up being productive — certainly they are more productive than just about anything else investigators have done in the case since the Boulder grand jury stopped its work last October without recommending an indictment. But the real question is "how productive?" and the real answer looks like it probably will be "not very."

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