|Letter Read to Boulder City Council
By Fleet and Priscilla White
regarding the JonBenet Ramsey Murder:
September 1, 1998,
Since the murder of JonBenet Ramsey twenty months ago, the Boulder County District Attorney and the news media have disparaged and criticized the conduct of the Boulder Police Department and its detectives.
Throughout that period, the Boulder community and its government have not expressed themselves regarding the case or offered support to its police officers.
As witnesses in the Ramsey murder, we have been in a position to observe the performance and conduct of both the Boulder Police Department detectives working on the case and the District Attorney. We have also been in a position to observe the relationship between these two agencies. The troubled and adverse nature of that relationship has greatly eroded the public's confidence in these agencies and in the Ramsey investigation itself. This conflict has gone far past the expected give-and-take between investigators and prosecutors. It reflects fundamental differences between the agencies regarding law enforcement. What has occurred in the Ramsey investigation is a measure of how vast those differences are.
After meeting with the City Manager in April of this year to discuss this matter, we wrote him a letter which read:
"There is now an irreconcilable rift between detectives who desire to follow evidence and construct a prosecutable case ... and prosecutors who have, for whatever reasons, been reluctant to do so. It is likely that the district attorney has attempted to discourage police detectives from pursuing certain investigative avenues .... It is also likely that detectives received little or no support from their superiors as the rift with the district attorney grew. We believe that the leadership of the Police Department has been disproportionately and improperly influenced by the district attorney. This had devastating consequences for the Ramsey investigation and for the morale of the detectives."
In regard to the selection process for a new police chief, we wrote the City Manager a letter dated May 14, 1998, which read:
"The Ramsey defense attorneys and District Attorney have simultaneously acted and spoken with the goal of degrading the Boulder Police Department and compromising its investigation .... The Boulder Police Department is now effectively leaderless and in disarray.
"Police detectives who have investigated the crime have been reduced to a frightened group of good men and women who can now expect punishment rather than praise for their good faith attempt to determine who brutally killed a little girl. Those who have been outspoken regarding the actions of the District Attorney are concerned that their careers in law enforcement may soon be at an end... Morale throughout the department is extremely poor.
"This tragedy has now involved many people in many different ways. ...It is a tragedy which has become part of the national consciousness. Does boulder really deserve to be known as a place where wealth and influence can buy justice? Yes it does. Does Boulder deserve to be known as a place where relatively intelligent and thoughtful citizens and civic leaders could be so unwilling to address difficult issues because of their denial, ignorance, apathy, or fear of political and personal risk? Yes it does. Can Boulder realistically expect to attract and maintain a force of talented and dedicated police officers who will put themselves at risk to serve and protect the community which has so notoriously let them down? No it cannot."
In December of 1997 we met with Governor Romer to ask that he intervene in the case. We asked him to remove the case from Alex Hunter's jurisdiction and appoint an independent special prosecutor. He refused to do so. Two weeks ago, Governor Romer finally intervened in response to the resignation letter of Police Detective Steve Thomas. Governor Romer forced the district attorney to announce that the case would be referred to a grand jury. The City of Boulder must now demand answers for the following questions:
1, Why has the use of a grand jury been delayed? How has this delay benefited the investigation? how could that benefit, if any, possibly justify the tremendous harm the delay has caused the city, its police department, its citizens and the criminal justice system? Why was the decision to use the grand jury to obtain additional evidence in the case not made in the early months of the investigation? Justice delayed is justice denied.
2. Why have key police detectives been removed from advising the grand jury?
3. Would the removal of the case from this jurisdiction result in any significant delay of the case including a grand jury investigation? Today we were told that District Attorney prosecutors previously working on the case have been removed and that the grand jury investigation is now in the hands of Michael Kane, a Boulder district prosecutor who has been on the job for two months. We have also been told that there will soon be additional prosecution help from outside the District Attorney's office. These people will have to get us up to speed on the case. The fear that removing this case from this jurisdiction will result in further delay of the case is unfounded. By not removing the case from this jurisdiction, Governor Romer is simply asking the Boulder community to overlook the improper conduct of the District Attorney's office in an effort to avoid further embarrassment to Alex Hunter.
4. Should the conduct of the district attorney and the police department be investigated? Perhaps, but this should be done at a later time. The case must first be removed from this jurisdiction and placed in the hands of an independent prosecutor for any further investigation and prosecution.
The Ramsey investigation is forcing this community to choose what sort of law enforcement it wishes. If it wishes to continue with the laissez-faire status quo, the community should now make that clear and endorse the district attorney's handling of the Ramsey case. If the community chooses this course, it must rely on its city government to somehow reconcile its police department with that philosophy. If the community wishes its prosecutors to be more aggressive and zealous, it must communicate that to them. We feel the Boulder community should do this by requesting that Governor Romer immediately remove the Ramsey case from this jurisdiction, Eventually, the citizens of Boulder and the county should communicate with their votes.
We favor stronger and more aggressive prosecution of the law. We also wish to have a capable police force which is prepared to protect our community. The past twenty months have made it clear to us that you can't have one without the other. All that is needed to understand this relationship is to listen to the officers of the Boulder Police Department.
We advocate the passage of a resolution by the City Council either endorsing the current state of affairs in the Ramsey case including a grand jury involving the Boulder County District Attorney or, alternatively, requesting that Governor Romer order the Attorney General to place the investigation and prosecution entirely in the hands of an independent prosecutor. In deciding whether to take this action, the community must not rely on the advice of the District Attorney or police leadership. These people have been the problem and do not represent the solution.
The time for this community and its public officials to take a stand and address these tremendously important issues has long since passed. This investigation is defining our community. The picture that is emerging is not one of which we can be proud.