[Transcript provided courtesy of "LizzieB" poster from Justice Watch forum]
Guests: Scott Robinson, Dr. Cyril Wecht, Darnay Hoffman, Mike Charles
Catherine Crier: Next, the murder of JonBenet Ramsey has remained a mystery since the day she was found strangled to death in the family's Boulder home in December, 1996. But now, former detective Lou Smit has come forward with a new theory about the killer or killers, one that refutes a widely held suspicion among local law enforcement that John and Patsy are the culprits. Smit stands by the theory that an intruder, with a stun gun, was the killer, and has released shocking crime scene photos to support it. So the question is, why now, and is this just the evidence the Ramseys need to help prove their innocence?
Joining me now for tonight's crime story segment is attorney Darnay Hoffman, who is suing the Ramseys on behalf of their former housekeeper and a journalist, attorney and legal analyst Scott Robinson, and forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who is also the author of the book, "Who killed JonBenet Ramsey?" Welcome to you all. Scott, let me start with you. Why this now? We knew who Lou Smit was, we knew he left the department and joined up with the Ramseys and began this investigation a long time ago. Why all the PR now?
Robinson: Well, there seems to be a pattern among the Ramsey attorneys of doing volleys or PR every few months or so to keep the story alive in the minds of the public. There are, as you know, and as our guests know, defamation suits pending involving the Ramseys. The issue of their guilt or innocence will soon surface. But let's remember that all of the information that's being broadcast this week, at least up until and through today, was information that actually surfaced over a year ago and was published in a Newsweek article in March of 2000. The information about the stun gun, the information about the footprint, the palm print near the wine cellar, none of the information that is now being brought again to light is new information. It's information that Smit says he provided to the grand jury back in 1999. So this. . .
Crier: Let's go through, specifically, for anyone who hasn't really followed his line of thinking, and that is there was no snow close to the windows or doors, so you can't be looking for track marks, but in fact if you open the basement window, despite a grate being there, and he demonstrated this this week, he says he could climb through. There was smudging on the windowsill. Ultimately there was a suitcase propped up under the window he says was used for an exit, and then of course the unidentified footprint and palm print, sneaker print and palm print, in the basement area itself. But is that necessarily evidence of an intruder who killed JonBenet?
Robinson: No, I don't think it proves anything definitively. Of course there is other information as well. The first police photograph of the window showed it being open. There's DNA that's under the little girl's fingertips that comes from an unidentified male, not John Ramsey. There was a baseball bat found outside near the home, and there was also a mixed DNA stain on the little girl's panties. I'm not saying John and Patsy Ramsey are innocent, but my view has always been that the clues in this case, the evidence, is equivocal. It's ambivalent. And that's precisely why the grand jury chose not to indict.
Crier: Okay, well let me turn to the doctor. Cyril, let me ask you about the stun gun, because apparently Lou Smit searched around and found that the particular Air Taser stun gun had prongs that would measure 3.5 cm apart, which apparently are the distance of both the marks on her cheek and the marks on her back. He also references a little, sort of a blue line between them that would be indicative of a stun gun. And he's supported by Dr. Michael Dobersen, who apparently is a forensic pathologist as well. Do you buy this?
Wecht: No I do not. Let me tell you that quite consistent with what Mr. Robinson has just stated regarding various other pieces of evidence, the stun gun theory has been around for some time. I know for a fact that this was submitted to various experts in stun guns and manufacturers, criminalists, forensic pathologists, law enforcement people, they all rejected it. I also know for a fact that Mr. Smit, pursuant to his own request, presented this to one of the top-flight forensic scientists, who along with another top-flight forensic scientist of a different subspecialty, rejected it. What's wrong with it are the following: Number one, when you look at the autopsy report, you don't even find these injuries on the cheeks described in that fashion. Number two, the distances between them, in any even, are not such that you would have had any kind of effectiveness from this mild nine-volt charge. In order to get effectiveness, they talked about having to have six inches apart, which requires it to be fired about six or seven feet away. Mr. Smit, on the program today, demonstrated holding it up right close to the skin.
Crier: So it doesn't make any noise.
Wecht: Yeah, he used the pillow, right. Also, if you have these kinds of thermal injuries, which I do not believe you would have from a stun gun, then you obviously would have some markings on the overlying white cotton garment. So for all of these reasons, you do not expect to find these kinds of injuries. Insofar as Mr. Smit's contention, how else can you explain what I call "punctate abrasions?" Very easily. You can have slight protuberances, projections from a surface. . .
Crier: Come on, speak English, Cyril.
Wecht: An uneven surface, an irregular surface. And as a matter of fact, Judge Crier, if you place, then, the body in one position, just think, and you have these two little projections here, and it comes out to be on a part of the back, and then the body is moved and the face is down there, or vice versa, then you'll get the same kind of apposition of these two markings. So how, he asks, can you possibly get this kind of thing? And then you get into a lot of other things of a fascinating nature, such as that room which, as I understand it, a housekeeper who worked there for about a year or so - and I think, gee, you have her attorney on - and I think she said she never even knew that room existed.
Crier: Okay, let me jump over here to Darnay and ask him that very question. This was a room that the police certainly overlooked when they were initially searching, and it was John Ramsey that went down and found the body in this particular room. . .
Wecht: At one o'clock in the afternoon, Judge, seven hours afterwards. He didn't even think to look in at six o'clock in the morning.
Crier: Yeah, so what does the housekeeper have to say about this?
Hoffman: Well, the housekeeper had to say that she did not know the room existed until Thanksgiving, which was like about a month earlier, when she was sent in there to help move presents and trees and one thing and another, but in the fourteen months that she had been working there, she never knew that room existed.
Crier: But that doesn't necessarily invalidate the theory that someone sees an open window, crawls in and comes upstairs and back down and out that window.
Hoffman: But what does invalidate Lou Smit's theory is the fact that as recently as this morning, a representative of the Air Taser company, which is the stun gun company that Lou Smit said made the weapon in question, they absolutely refute the fact that that weapon was used, or that object was used, simply because they have been unable to reproduce those markings on any kind of cadaver, or person, or anything else. They say that those injuries or those marks on her body are not consistent with anything that they've ever tried to show the police. They would certainly like to help solve this crime, but none of the representatives have been able to reproduce it themselves, so they don't think it's their...
Crier: Yes, I actually have that report here, and a conversation where the Taser representative, really, conducted the experiments on the air, and could not produce the kind of marks that we're talking about.
Hoffman. Yeah. It completely blows Lou Smit's theory out of the water.
Wecht. That's right.
Crier: Well I tell you what, we're going to take a break and when we come back on the other side, Darnay also has some other theories and we've got a few graphics to show you to support what he's got to say.
Crier: Welcome back. We're talking about whether an ex-Boulder detective has evidence that clears the Ramseys in the murder of their daughter. One of Lou Smit's theories involves a stun gun used on JonBenet. Joining me now is NYPD detective Mike Charles for a little tech talk on the Tasers. And still here, Darnay Hoffman, Scott Robinson, and Dr. Cyril Wecht. Mike, thanks so much for coming by, because we were just talking about the particular interview that the maker of this stun gun had given, including a demonstration. Give us some details. What happens if you walk up to me with a nine-volt stun gun and give me a zap?
Charles: Well, a stun gun gives out approximately 25,000 - 50,000 volts. Its main, primary purpose is to immobilize a particular area of the body, be it an arm, the electronics in your muscles go down. It can't kill you, it can't render you unconscious. It basically stuns you and you stop what you're doing. Years ago in New York, we had a very tragic case involving a police sergeant who was stun-gunning suspects, and they left marks. And what had happened in that case is they blew up photographs of the actual wound and they compared it with that. And any time there's a homicide, a detective, the way we do it in New York, would be present with the ME as he's going over the body, and anything like that would jump off the screen or off the page at you.
Crier: So Dr. Wecht was talking about the fact that there was no clear delineation that there was a suspected stun gun in this case when they were doing the autopsy. You would expect, nowadays, anyone, particularly in a high profile case like this, who is doing the autopsy, to look for these marks?
Charles: Absolutely. We look for bite marks, we look for bruising, we look for any type of cut, any type of entry/exit wound. We're present with the ME when he's doing that.
Crier: Okay, let's play devil's advocate. If, in fact, the two marks on the cheek and the two marks on the back were a stun gun, what would you expect to see?
Charles: Well, we would see what would appear to be two, like, Bic pen dots.
Crier: And that's all you would see?
Charles: That's what we would see.
Crier: And would that indicate that the stun gun had actually been placed up against a body, or do you do this from a distance.
Charles: Well there are two types. There's a Taser, which our police supervisors use if there if there is somebody who is emotionally disturbed. They fire the Taser, it's like two fishhooks and an electronic probe is emitted from them. A stun gun is placed right into the skin, like I zap him like that (pretends to zap Darnay), excuse me, Counsel. And you hit the button. It fits in the palm of your hand and it has two probes sticking out of it. That's all you do, you hit it quick. You would yell. It hurts. We don't use them in law enforcement.
Crier: Okay, what would you expect to be the effect on a child of this size?
Charles: That child would be screaming.
Crier: She would be screaming?
Charles: There's no doubt in my mind.
Crier: Dr. Wecht, in fact there was some testimony about a scream heard between 12:00 and 2:00 AM. Lou Smit says in fact the vent down in the basement goes outside, pointed at the house that heard the scream. It would not have been vented up through the Ramseys' house. They might not have noticed it. Would this not correspond with possibly getting hit with a stun gun?
Wecht: Oh, there's no question, as far as I know, the testimony of that neighbor across the street has never been refuted, that he [sic] did hear a scream. And another neighbor saw some light, too, in the kitchen area, that was very atypical, which was inconsistent with the Ramsey story that everybody was asleep, which was also inconsistent, by the way, with Burke being asleep, when his voice was heard on the 911 tape.
Crier: Would you expect the criminalist, the forensic pathologist who did the autopsy in this case, or the ME, to have overlooked, to have not specifically designated these may well be stun gun marks?
Wecht: No. I would not have expected him to overlook markings. Furthermore, I want to repeat for emphasis that there is nothing new here. These photos, which I had not seen before this morning, I'm not talking about myself, I've seen other photos, but these photos have been looked at and have been studied by topnotch experts in various fields and they have all been rejected as evidence of stun gun marks, so this is something that Mr. Smit has come up with. And with the softball pitches that are being lobbed to him every morning, he's just hitting it right out of the park.
Crier: Doctor, are you surprised? Are you surprised that NBC would do a series with one individual with one point of view on a case like this?
Wecht: Yes. I was on another show last night, I'll be on another one tonight, and people on both sides, your show, has people expressing different views, and so on. I'm very surprised; I just can't imagine anything like this taking place. And the things that are being said, the major theme of which is that there is this grand continuing conspiracy which has gone on from day one. As a matter of fact, if every criminal and suspect in America ever had one wish, they would want as a district attorney Alex Hunter.
Crier: Oh, boy. Let me turn now real quickly before we run out of time to Darnay Hoffman. I'm going to put up a graphic because Darnay had some handwriting analysis done, and we know that this has been done many times on Patsy's writing, and as close as we can get to that - my eyes are going. But Darnay, take us through what we're looking at. On the left, I see it's Patsy Ramsey, on the right, it's the ransom note.
Hoffman: Yes. What you see is a forensic document examiner's, for the purposes of just visually illustrating the similarities in the handwriting, took individual letters from exemplars, historic exemplars. Those are samples that she created before the event, meaning before anyone thought she had murdered her daughter. She had written these many years before. On the right side, as you look at it, you see lettering from the ransom note. And remember, the person who wrote the ransom note is trying to disguise their handwriting, and even though she's trying to disguise it, you still see the similarities are coming through.
Crier: And they're unique letters. Obviously I'm not an analyst so I wouldn't know, but they're unique letters and they're formed in a unique fashion.
Hoffman: Now, the shocking thing is this. NBC has this and much more in the way of handwriting evidence. They have never attempted to air that. They are willing to air the nonsense involving Lou Smit. And just remember one thing, there's something inherently illogical about Lou Smit's premise, which is that the stun gun is used in order to subdue the daughter in the bedroom, but then he's saying that it's being used in the basement, meaning she's been subdued, brought down there, and now it's being applied again in the basement>
Crier: Torture, I guess.
Hoffman: No, more importantly, that's why people can hear it?
Crier: Let me turn back to Scott we go, back to the question of, why now? Are they actually wanting new investigators appointed? Are they wanting the Boulder police department to crank this up again, another grand jury?
Robinson: No, no, we're talking about propaganda here, pure and simple. No question about it.
Crier: To what end?
Robinson: This a press-related, a media-related effort to attempt to manipulate jurors. But I won't to point out that you can't ignore physical facts that seem to point to an intruder. They may not point to the use of a stun gun, but for all the theories that other pundits have reached, people with lawsuits against the Ramseys, people with books out, the fact is there was physical evidence point towards an intruder, and far be it for me to let the facts get into the way of a good opinion. But we've got to be fair here. Smit was a very well-respected homicide investigator whose work was legion in Colorado Springs.
Crier: And certainly we're going to continue to hear from him. In the meantime, Mike Charles, Cyril Wecht, Darnay Hoffman, Scott Robinson, thank you for your opinions.