Throwing JonBenet Ramsey’s Brother Under The Bus For A Buck
September 22, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having no business in this Honorable Court of Public Opinion are admonished to give their attention and draw near, and you will be made stupider. God save the Internet and egregious clickbait.
The 20th anniversary of the murder of JonBenet Ramsey brought a gripping lurid new low from CBS. A two part documentary accused Ramsey’s older brother (who was nine years old at the time) of committing the murder, and his parents of covering it up. Ordinarily, we could chalk this nonsense up to another outbreak of Missing White Girl Syndrome, except for the fact that this is the perfect example of how bad reporting on criminal justice issues have the potential to make people stupider. Here’s the evidence the “investigators” came up with.
The first step in Clemente and Richards’ reinvestigation was analyzing Patsy Ramsey’s 911 call, specifically an inaudible portion at the very end when the phone clicked but did not disconnect. Because the operator did not hang up, the call continued to record, but no one has ever been able to conclusively decipher the extremely muffled, inaudible voices heard faintly in the background.
[T]hey claimed they were going to use “more modern audio technology” to figure out how many voices were on the tape and what they were saying. Sitting in a recording studio, the pair listened as the engineer fussed with levels and knobs. As Clemente and Richards began to “figure out” what was allegedly being said and who was allegedly saying it, subtitles popped up on screen in a flagrant attempt to convince the viewers that they, too, could hear it.
Except, this wasn’t news. The tape had been analyzed in 1999 and the recording was always available to investigators, the real investigators. The show didn’t reveal this.
Instead, viewers were subjected to their herculean efforts to isolate, amplify and translate this supposed bit of muffled dialogue as if it was just as brand new to them. And then they presented their conclusions as proof that the Ramseys had lied, and used Burke’s alleged presence as an excuse to add him to their suspect list.
The Ramsey parents were formally exonerated by the Boulder County District Attorney in 2008 based on the presence of unidentified DNA in JonBenet’s underwear. But wait! says the show. There’s more!
Dr. Lee explained how touch DNA is so easily transferred that it can show up on a brand new pair of underwear straight out of its sealed packaging, so his belief that the presence of unidentified male DNA on a little girl’s underwear could have come from a factory worker was convincing.
Except, there isn’t any evidence that she was wearing new underwear at the time. For some reason, the show doesn’t seem to do any investigating on whether or not the DNA had been laundered, or how many times. That wouldn’t make good TV.
Lastly, apparently the Ramseys behavior after the murder didn’t meet the “investigators’” standards.
Time and time again, Clemente, Richards, former FBI “linguistic profiler” James Fitzgerald and former FBI statement analyst Stan Burke, reached certain conclusions based on highly subjective analysis of the vocal inflections, body language, pronoun use, linguistic phrasing and human behavior exhibited by the Ramseys during the investigation. Everything from Patsy Ramsey referring to herself as “the mother” in the 911 call, to John Ramsey’s decision to pick up his dead daughter’s body, to the “appropriateness” of Burke Ramsey’s response to her death was scrutinized through the lens of the investigators’ “expertise.”
In other words, there’s a prescribed, approved, and “normal” way to react to the death of a family member, and any deviation from that standard is prima facie evidence of guilt. This is “junk science” at its worst.
CBS went on to include a “disclaimer” about how viewers “should draw their own conclusions” about the murder. This is a rather obvious attempt to defend against the inevitable defamation lawsuit, but it also serves as the jury instruction in this session of the court of public opinion. This is complete horseshit. The viewing public watched a nine-year-old kid thrown under the bus for the sake of advertising dollars. In CSI, or Law and Order, or any other fictional show, this is bad enough, though at least the viewers are (hopefully) aware (intellectually, anyway) that it’s not to be taken seriously in the real world. But what happens when garbage like this is presented as real?
It’s that much more likely, now that somewhere in America, a real defendant will be prosecuted for murder, and the evidence against him consists of muffled words on a recording (that the detectives will say is totally clear when listening with the magic headphones), someone else’s DNA (explained away as “part of the manufacturing process”) or the fact that the defendant “acted funny.” And some idiot jury will buy it, because “they saw it on the news.” Beyond the damage to the Ramsey family, that’s the danger of making people stupider.