Date of show = March 27, 2000

[Transcript furnished courtesy Justice Watch Forum]

COURIC: Last week, of course, we heard from John and Patsy Ramsey. This morning, the district attorney in charge of the case, Alex Hunter. Recently, he announced he'll step--step down at the end of the year. In his first extended TV interview about the case, he sat down Friday with NBC's chief legal correspondent Dan Abrams. While he would not discuss specifics of the evidence or the grand jury proceedings, he did talk about whether the investigation is effectively closed.

HUNTER: When we think this needs to go on the shelf, we're going to say, 'This needs to go on the shelf.' And, you know, it may happen, but it's we're not there yet.

DAN ABRAMS: But it's been over three years.

HUNTER: You know, the public perception in this area is faulty, in my judgment. And this is a terrible generalization that that a case can be wrapped up in an hour like it is on "Law and Order," you know? Three years is is not a lot.

ABRAMS: What are the chances this case is going to be solved?

HUNTER: Oh, I think the chances are good.

ABRAMS: More than 50 percent?

HUNTER: Oh, yeah, more than 50 percent.

ABRAMS: That JonBenet's killer will be found?

HUNTER: Yeah, more than 50 percent.

ABRAMS: And be tried?

HUNTER: Right.

ABRAMS: For over three years, he's been the chief law enforcement official on a seemingly stalled investigation. No indictment, no trial, and yet this district attorney's legacy will forever be intertwined with this 6yo, whose picture is displayed prominently in his office.

HUNTER: It was a reminder for me, day-in, day-out, to try to keep my eye on the ball, you know? I couldn't always do that. But she's she's real important to me.

ABRAMS: In December, 1996, when Alex Hunter first heard about the murder of a 6 yogirl in Boulder, the veteran DA had no idea what he was in for.

HUNTER: I did not sense that the American public would latch onto this case and that it would become a high-profile case. When I began to see the pageant videos and and the still photographs of of the victim, of JonBenet, I began to get the feeling that the there would be a lot more eyes on Boulder, and on this case, and on our handling of this case than any other case before.

(From February 1997) There must be accountability. There is going to be accountability in this case, I promise you.

ABRAMS: In February of 1997, you held a press conference where you looked directly into the camera, you said that you would find JonBenet's killer. What happened?

HUNTER: I was wrong. Those were my feelings at the time. I wanted to make that statement. But, you know, Patsy Ramsey called me that day.

ABRAMS: Patsy Ramsey called you right after you had that press conference?

HUNTER: Yes. Well, her her lawyer called me first, and he said, I you know, she wants to talk to you.

ABRAMS: What did she say to you?

HUNTER: Well, I'm not I'm not I mean, that's part of the evidence in this case.

ABRAMS: How long a conversation did you have?

HUNTER: Three or four minutes.

ABRAMS: What did you think of her?

HUNTER: Articulate. Let's leave it at that.

ABRAMS: And Hunter's ongoing dialogue with the Ramsey attorneys often put the DA on the defensive. In an effort to get an interview with the Ramseys

HUNTER: Mm-hmm.

ABRAMS: your office turned over certain documents, police files, previous statements that the Ramseys had made, and you've come under severe criticism for that. Isn't it unheard of to give someone who is a potential suspect, even if you want an interview, information like police statements?

HUNTER: I don't I don't think so at all. It was my advice that to move this case forward, a case that was stuck, going nowhere, up against a stone wall, that having about eight lawyers look over these 26 pages, roughly, of blah, blah, blah, blah in the early hours of this investigation, that that gave us a shot at advancing this case. Nothing was given to the Ramsey lawyers under the table. And everything was a matter of consensus in terms of the action that was taken. That was, in my judgment, a good legal call, and certainly people can criticize it all they want, but I'd do it again in a minute.

ABRAMS: Really? And if you had

HUNTER: Absolutely.

ABRAMS: Wasn't one of the fundamental problems that the police wanted an indictment of John or Patsy Ramsey, and that the prosecutors were saying, 'hey, easy there, guys'?

HUNTER: There maybe was only one officer that was saying, you know, throw them in the can and and break them that way.

ABRAMS: The police at one point weren't even sharing the evidence that they were obtaining. That's got to be a big problem for an investigation.

HUNTER: Well, you know, the police are the investigators, the lawyers are the advisers.

ABRAMS: But they didn't trust you.

HUNTER: One of the things that happens is that people distrust one another, because they hear the public to be screaming for resolution. When it wasn't a slam dunk, when the forensics didn't come together in the early stages, that was frustrating. And like the rest of us human beings, sometimes when you get frustrated, you start pointing fingers. You know, I don't want anybody to feel sorry for me, but there had to be a little scapegoating going on. And I think there were some of us that that were kind of easy marks.

COURIC: Tomorrow, we'll hear what Hunter thought about the Ramsey interviews that aired last week here on TODAY.