09-03-2006, 02:38 PM #1Rest In Peace
- Join Date
- Aug 2003
- At the Beach and in our hearts
From the Wall Street Journal TODAY.READ!
I just saw at Forums for Justice....Tricia's forum and the gal who posted it.......I don't think is on WS, so am posting here.
September 3, 2006
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ'S MEDIA LOG
A decade-old murder returns to television.
Two days into the JonBenet Ramsey/John Karr media deluge, a mid-fortyish male in line next to me at a food shop groaned at the day's newspaper headlines. "Now," muttered this stranger--though he wore a baseball cap with bill turned backward, which suggested a few things about him one could know right off--"now we're not going to hear about anything but this damned story for the next six weeks."
I sympathized, forbearing to tell him that it would have plenty of competition, what with the networks set to embark on round-the-clock wallowing in the Katrina anniversary. There would be other distractions to come: two kidnapped Fox News journalists forced at gunpoint to attest that they had converted to Islam--victims who solemnly announced, upon their release on Sunday, that the 13 terrifying days of captivity they had endured should in no way discourage other journalists. On top of that, a major domestic airline disaster and 49 resulting deaths. Still, on this busiest of news days, there was plenty of room for John Karr.
It wasn't till Monday's news that the suspect's DNA didn't match the genetic fingerprint found at the crime scene--and that he would not be charged--that the air began to go out of this strange story. Begun sensationally enough on Aug. 16, when word came that the Thai police had arrested a suspect in the Christmas 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, the story's coverage went ratcheting off the fever chart when John Karr--the man arrested--managed to tell reporters that JonBenet's death had been an accident, and indicated that he had been present as she died.
The general amazement at this seeming end of a haunting case didn't last long. It took only the testimony of the suspect's estranged ex-wife--not exactly a friendly witness--that her husband had still been married to her in 1996, had spent Christmas with the family, and could have been nowhere near Boulder at the time of JonBenet's murder, to set off the first tides of skepticism about his confession.
The growing sense that the confessor's claims were at best highly dubious only grew stronger in the next days as his family told roughly the same story, repeatedly. (In this family nobody misses Christmas.) It was, in truth, a peculiarly convincing assertion in its simplicity. A star television lineup of forensic specialists, lawyers and similar advisers in high-profile cases added their doubts that John Karr could have committed the crime. All told, a tale whose wild improbabilities were obvious--one that seemed to violate the laws of time, space and reason itself--had been, with few exceptions, roundly rejected. A pity--or so some witnessing this bracing display of skepticism must have thought--that so little of that showed itself when Americans by the score were prosecuted, convicted and carted off to do 40 or 60 years, or life in prison, on the basis of child sex abuse testimony far more obviously at odds with reality than anything in John Karr's own bizarre confession.
Which isn't to say that he didn't find believers, or that there were no supporting witnesses, with alleged evidence in support of his self-incriminating claims. All had their moment on-screen, including the handwriting analysts who provided lovingly detailed instruction in their art. One of these had little doubt, as he told the CNN audience, that John Karr had written the ransom note found at the JonBenet Ramsey crime scene. Also on hand, making the rounds of the cable news shows, was an audio tape, alleged to be of the suspect, whispering ecstatically about the joy of beholding the beautiful JonBenet, of his blissful contact with her, and the like--a performance that bore a sharp resemblance to the sort of voice and panting sentiment to be found on standard porn films. (We cannot know, of course, whose voice that was. After a full airing of this recitative, came the network disclaimer, i.e., that it had been impossible to make independent verification of the tape's authenticity because the tape's owner demanded compensation.)
Yet for sheer strangeness, and, as well, a memorable indicator of the media welcome afforded anyone who might offer a new nugget of information, nothing surpassed the television interview with the citizen who claimed to have seen someone resembling John Karr on a Boulder bus (presumably around Christmas) 10 years ago.
How this man happened, now, to remember a face he saw on a bus 10 years earlier, and why he did so, the imperturbable witness did not say; nor, remarkably enough, did his interviewer ask. He had little more to say, the man indicated--just that he saw this person who looked like John Karr on that bus. Nudged to come up with something more, he allowed that he was open to information--perhaps other people who were on that bus 10 years back, who may remember a man looking like Karr, might want to come forward. So proceeded this interview, in its madness, to a merciful conclusion.
Karr now goes off to face his misdemeanor child pornography charges, a grotesque case which--it can come as no news--became the instant, consuming drama it did only thanks to its seeming connection to the unforgotten, infinitely more appalling story of the murdered JonBenet Ramsey. As revolting as Karr might be--as, indeed, his history, and the details of his fantasies of sex and accidental murder of the child, prove him to be--little about this story can evoke the sort of revulsion that the Ramsey case did, and still does.
The passage of 10 years hasn't quite diminished the impact of those pictures of the heavily lipsticked 6-year-old in eye-makeup and heels, gazing sexily into the camera in one of the beauty-queen poses her mother helped her perfect. Never had pictures of a lively and beautiful child caused so many people to want to look away, every time--not only because the child was dead, but because to see one so tarted up was itself hard to bear. It didn't help, of course, that one's thoughts immediately following the viewing of these pictures unavoidably wandered to connections between the child's look and the cruelty that robbed her of her life.
It was not just such pictures that cast their shadow on the Ramseys once the child had been found dead by her father, a garotte (made of a cord and one of her mother's paint brushes) around her throat, her skull fractured, and, as would emerge shortly after, sexually abused. There had been the fantastic ransom letter, presumably discovered by Patsy Ramsey, the child's mother--a 2 1/2-page message declaring the writers to be "a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction." In language that made it altogether improbable that it had been written by extortionists--or by anyone other than someone desperate to approximate the imagined language of such criminals--the letter mentioned its alleged authors' respect for the Ramseys' business "but not the country it serves," then went on to demand $118,000 to be put in, yes, brown paper bags. Finally, it threatened that speaking to anyone would cause their daughter's beheading--even if they caught the Ramseys so much as "talking to a strange dog."
What ultimately caused suspicion to fall on the Ramseys, though, had to do mainly with the couple's refusal to meet with the police, after the initial interview, for months after the murder--they did, instead, appear on the Larry King Show--and with their instant hiring of a publicist as well as a lawyer.
In the end, no case was made against the Ramseys or any member of their family. It was impossible, during the last weeks of the John Karr drama, not to be reminded of the bitterness of this saga--the books written, the libel suits filed and, not least, the unsolved murder. Impossible not to be reminded, too, of what the prosperous and influential Ramseys could achieve, by way of legal protection. Impossible to imagine, either, any one of those scores of accused citizens of modest means, facing investigations of child abuse filed by ambitious prosecutors, doing what the Ramseys could do--namely, refuse to meet with police and submit to questioning other than on their own terms.
It is possible no one will ever know who killed JonBenet Ramsey. We can know, with certainty, as that case among others has proved, how much legal protection enough money can buy
09-04-2006, 12:07 PM #2There had been the fantastic ransom letter, presumably discovered by Patsy Ramsey, the child's mother--a 2 1/2-page message declaring the writers to be "a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction." In language that made it altogether improbable that it had been written by extortionists--or by anyone other than someone desperate to approximate the imagined language of such criminals--the letter mentioned its alleged authors' respect for the Ramseys' business "but not the country it serves," then went on to demand $118,000 to be put in, yes, brown paper bags.
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