Burke Ramsey, the brother of JonBenet Ramsey, has filed a $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS for a special, The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey, that the network aired earlier this year to investigate the murder of the young beauty queen on the 20th anniversary of her death. The lawsuit, filed by Ramsey’s longtime attorney Lin Wood and an attorney in Michigan, accuses CBS of intentionally ignoring mountains of evidence, including police and District Attorney statements which exonerated the Ramsey family, and instead falsely pointing the finger at Burke, who was 9 at the time, as the one who murdered his sister. The lawsuit also names several of the experts featured in the two part documentary series, including Jim Clemente, Laura Richards, James Kolar James R Fitzgerald, Stanley Burke, Werner Spitzer, Henry Lee, and Critical Content, the outside production company that helped to produce the documentary.
“CBS perpetrated a fraud upon the public—instead of being a documentary based on a new investigation by a so-called team of experts, The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey was a fictional crime show based primarily on a preconceived storyline scripted in a self-published and commercially unsuccessful book, Foreign Faction, written by Defendant James Kolar (“Kolar”) and published in 2012,” the 108 page lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit claims that while promoting the docuseries that aired in the fall, the experts concluded they may have solved who murdered JonBenet. Six-year-old JonBenet was found in the wine cellar of the Ramsey’s Boulder, Colorado home on Christmas in 1996. She was found strangled with her wrists tied above her head and a garrote embedded in her neck. The CBS Special provided theories as to how Burke may have killed the young girl, including implying that Burke may have been heard on the 911 call made by the Ramseys, that Patsy Ramsey wrote the ransom note, and that JonBenet could have been hit over the head by Burke with a flashlight, according to the court filing. Burke says all of the allegations are completely false. In the lawsuit, he also takes issue with how CBS staged a demonstration of a young boy bludgeoning a pig skin “clad with a blonde wig to create the image of Burke killing his sister,” calling it a “disgusting staged demonstration intended to plant in the viewers’ minds the powerful and incriminating image of Burke killing his sister.”
The lawsuit said that the Boulder PD and the Boulder District Attorney’s office have publicly exonerated Burke before, during, and after the grand jury investigation, and that those facts were not highlighted in the series. As evidence, they point to a statement from the former Boulder Police Department chief, in which he said that Burke was not involved in the killing. The lawsuit states:
On July 9, 2008, former Boulder DA Lacy relied on newly discovered DNA evidence to exonerate the Ramsey Family (including Burke) in an open letter released to the public. DA Lacy declared that:
[N]ew scientific evidence convinces us that it is appropriate, given the circumstances of this case, to state that we do not consider your immediate family including you, your wife, Patsy, and your son, Burke, to be under any suspicion in the commission of this crime.
The court documents point out that none of the six experts concluded that Patsy wrote the ransom note. While they could not rule her out with 100% certainty, the handwriting experts contend the chances of her writing the note were “very low.”
The lawsuit says that as a result of CBS’ defamatory statements against Burke, he has suffered damage and harm including economic damages, damage to his reputation, and mental anguish. The lawsuit requests compensatory damages in the amount of $250 million, and punitive damages in the amount of $500 million. CBS has declined to comment on the lawsuit.
[screengrab via Dr. Phil show]
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