Macon Telegraph
October 17, 1999

Reasonable doubts extend Ramsey case

R. L. Day/For the editorial board

The man on the hot seat in the killing of JonBenet Ramsey is District Attorney Alex Hunter, who is guilty of - as he put it - "making mistakes" in the investigation. He has a lot of company, including Boulder police who initially put on a clinic on how to screw up a crime scene. Meanwhile, both parents of the little beauty queen remain "suspects."

But last Thursday a grand jury, after weighing facts for 13 months, couldn't string enough together to indict anyone. If the maze led anywhere, it was to reasonable doubts.

It isn't over. Hunter vowed to vigorously pursue the investigation indefinitely. The governor of Colorado is seriously considering appointing a special prosecutor. But the trail is now as cold as it is meandering. Chances are, whoever did the evil deed will remain as anonymous as Jack the Ripper.

The Boulder police chief says John and Patsy Ramsey remain "under an umbrella of suspicion." That means everybody's umbrella, the chief's, the DA's and the special prosecutor's, if there is one.

A tabloid mentality surrounds the Ramseys. The two stand out as the only tangible figures who might be connected to the crime. They make easier targets than some phantom killer, who may or may not exist. The Ramseys exist.

But let us entertain our suspicions carefully. Preaching presumption of innocence may sound trite, but that's exactly what's involved here, legally and morally.

While speculation is inevitable, we should keep an open mind to the real possibility that these parents (a) lost a child to murder, (b) had nothing to do with it themselves, (c) are the only ones in a position to know absolutely that somewhere out there the killer of their little girl roams free.

That doesn't suggest folding the "umbrella of suspicion." The case pulsates with tantalizing contradictions, many involving the parents. Even putting investigative foul-ups aside, aspects of the couple's story raise serious questions. All have not been satisfactorily answered.

But justice isn't just about finding and punishing the perpetrator. It's also about protecting the innocent. As of now, the Ramseys can be officially characterized only as victims. That will remain so unless some future revelation proves otherwise - beyond reasonable doubt.

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