USA TODAY - The current district attorney in Boulder, Colo., said Sunday he does not know if he would have prosecuted the parents of Jon Benet Ramsey after a grand jury voted to indict them on charges related to the child beauty queen's 1996 death.
A grand jury voted in 1999 to indict John and Patsy Ramsey on two counts each of child abuse resulting in the death of JonBenet, 6, according to grand jury documents released last week. The grand jury also said the couple helped whoever killed their daughter -- but did not name a suspect for the slaying.
Then-Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to sign the grand jury indictment or prosecute the couple, saying there was not sufficient evidence to file charges.
Four pages of documents were released Friday by a Colorado judge in response to a lawsuit by Charlie Brennan, a reporter for the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
In an opinion piece published Sunday in the Daily Camera, Dist. Atty. Stan Garnett said he and his staff reviewed the case when he took office in 2009. He noted that the statute of limitations for the abuse charges was three years.
"My staff evaluated the Ramsey case to determine if there was any charge for which the statute of limitations had not run and for which there was conclusive evidence," Garnett wrote in the opinion piece. "Because there was none, we focused on other matters."
The body of JonBenet, who was strangled and bludgeoned to death, was discovered in the basement several hours after the Ramseys had called police to report her missing. A ransom note was recovered.
Garnett acknowledged that because no charges were ever filed, "the community has had no resolution and the tabloid press has been free to speculate, sometimes recklessly, based on only parts of the evidence."
Garnett noted that an the threshold for a grand jury indictment is "probable cause" to believe that a crime was committed -- less than the guilt beyond a reasonable doubt threshold required for a conviction.
"The DAs with the authority to do so believed that the evidence did not rise to the necessary level to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at a jury trial," Garnett said. "I don't know if I would have made the same decision, but I know how difficult these decisions are."
Hunter, who had convened the grand jury in 1999, refused to sign the indictment after months of presenting evidence in the case.
"I and my prosecutorial team believe we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time," Hunter said at the time.
The parents consistently denied involvement in their daughter's death. Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in 2006.
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