The recent release of grand jury documents from the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation is a win for the public in seeing how its criminal justice system works, even years after the investigation concluded, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which was a plaintiff in the case seeking access.
JonBenet Ramsey was 6 years old when she was found dead in the basement of her family home the day after Christmas 1996. The high-profile case garnered unrelenting media coverage at the time and continues as a subject of interest today as it remains unsolved. The grand jury investigating the murder disbanded in 1999, and the prosecutor declined to bring an indictment, citing lack of sufficient evidence.
Boulder Daily Camera reporter Charlie Brennan continued to investigate and report on the Ramsey case, and in January 2013 he reported that the grand jury had voted to indict JonBenet’s parents but the prosecutor decided not pursue any charges. The documents, however, remained sealed.
Brennan and the Reporters Committee, represented by Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz LLP in Denver, sought access to the records, and a district court in Boulder ruled that those 18 pages signed by the grand jury foreman and related to the indictment of JonBenet’s parents should be public. Brennan explained the interests at stake in this case in a Daily Camera story today.
“There is a very strong and legitimate public interest in access to grand jury documents in such a controversial case,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce Brown. “The public has a right to know what the grand jury did and how the prosecutor’s office handled that information, particularly in a case that has gone unsolved for so many years.”
About the Reporters Committee
Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.