'It's time for Boulder police to talk': JonBenét Ramsey’s brother welcomes new cold case legislation
BOULDER, COLORADO: A new federal law that allows families of homicide victims to reopen investigations could prove to be a "promising step" towards finding JonBenét Ramsey's killer, but not everybody is convinced of the legislation.
JonBenét's half-brother John Andrew Ramsey lauded the Homicide Victims' Families Rights Act signed into law by President Joe Biden, saying it provides "accountability and transparency." JonBenét was a six-year-old beauty pageant queen who was found murdered in her parents' Boulder, Colorado residence in 1996. Her case has remained unsolved for 25 years and is easily one of the most notorious cold cases in the country. Boulder authorities have not revealed much information about the investigation into her mysterious killing.
"We're not the only family like this who face challenges where police are unwilling to share information," Ramsey told The Sun. "Which is understandable after a couple of years. It's been 25 years. It's time for Boulder police to talk." On August 3, Biden signed legislation into law allowing families of cold case victims to submit an application to basically reopen the case. A federal agency is tasked with determining whether reinvestigating a case would result in new leads to find a suspect. The agency can deny the application or approve the reinvestigation based on four actions, listed as follows:
1. An analysis of what investigative steps or follow-up steps may have been missed in the initial investigation;
2. An assessment of whether witnesses should be interviewed or reinterviewed;
3. An examination of physical evidence to see if all appropriate forensic testing and analysis was performed in the first instance or if additional testing might produce information relevant to the investigation; and
4. An update of the case file using the most current investigative standards as of the date of the review to the extent it would help develop probative leads.
Ramsey and his father have reportedly been urging Colorado Gov Jared Polis to use his executive power to do something similar. He started an online petition calling on the governor to take the case out of Boulder police's hands and give it to an outside agency. "It's something we've been pushing for," Ramsey said of the federal cold case law. "It's not a punitive action; it's helpful for local police departments. If I'm stuck on something, I would want someone to look at the problem with a clear set of eyes and fresh ideas." According to him, the new law could be a "blueprint" for Boulder law enforcement.
However, reputed legal expert Bennett Gershman told The Sun that the new legislation is rather "unclear, without teeth and arbitrary." He called the law "a lovely piece of legislation but it's just window dressing." Gershman said helping embattled families of homicide victims sounds good on paper, but that this "strange" piece of legislation comes with its own set of difficulties.
The expert explained that the purpose of the law is not clear. If it only refers to federal law enforcement, as suggested by the definition of "agency," it would take nearly 90 percent of cold cases out of consideration. Gershman said if it is assumed that the law applies to local police departments, then the basis for a "reinvestigation" is unclear. "If someone makes an application and the agency must do something, what's the standard they'll use to make a decision?" he asked. "Is there probable cause? Is it new evidence? Is it after a certain amount of time? That leaves everything up to the agency and it becomes an arbitrary decision." Furthermore, he noted there's no reference in the legislation to a court or an appeal board, so the aforementioned federal agency's decision should be final. "It's just not clear," Gershman concluded. "There are a lot of reasons why this is a strange law and if it can actually benefit victims' families."