BOULDER, Colo. - A judge in Boulder has ordered the release of the Grand Jury indictment in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case.
The document which charged JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, will be released on Friday, according to the Boulder Daily Camera and court officials.
The court order issued Wednesday said, "the documents consist of 18 pages, 9 each relating to John and Patricia Ramsey." There are other documents related to the case, however, the only documents being released Friday are those signed by the Grand Jury foreman, the court order said.
“We’re very pleased that the judge has applied the law in a way we believe that the law was written,” said First Amendment attorney Steven Zansberg. “A Grand Jury’s indictment is a record of official action by that government body and the public is entitled to inspect that document.”
While the Grand Jury reportedly voted to indict the parents in 1999, the indictment was not accepted by then-District Attorney Alex Hunter because he said he didn't think he could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the parents were guilty.
Boulder Daily Camera reporter Charlie Brennan and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a lawsuit last month trying to compel the District Attorney's Office to release the indictment. The Daily Camera was not a party to the lawsuit, but said it supported the suit.
"The plaintiffs believe … that the indictment is a criminal justice record that reflects official action by the grand jury, and accordingly that it is subject to mandatory disclosure upon request," attorney Thomas B. Kelley wrote in the September complaint. "Alternatively, they argue the indictment should be disclosed to the public because such disclosure would serve the public interest in government transparency and not be contrary to the public interest nor cause undue adverse effect upon the privacy of the individual."
News of the grand jury indictment wasn't revealed until Brennan filed a story on its existence earlier this year.
The news was a surprise to many since then-D.A. Hunter announced in 1999 that the grand jury investigating JonBenet's death had concluded without finding "sufficient evidence to warrant a filing of charges against anyone."
When asked if Hunter was obligated to release the information about the indictment without anyone asking him to do so, Zansberg said, “That’s an interesting question. I think the Grand Jury indictment ought to have been presented in open court. It should have become a record of the court and at that point the public would have been made aware of it and then would have asked for it. I don’t think independently of that, that Mr. Hunter had a duty to provide it to the public without a request being made.”
Hunter’s successor, Mary Lacy, exonerated the Ramsey family in 2008 using DNA evidence from JonBenet's clothing. DNA evidence pointed to a mystery person in connection with the crime.
The Court Order issued Wednesday contains information regarding a letter from John Ramsey to current Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett. It states that “In the letter Mr. Ramsey requests that ‘if the unprosecuted indictment is to be publicly released, the Court should also order release of the entire grand jury record…’”
Lacy told 7NEWS, “In fairness, it should all be released. To not release it all doesn’t seem fair.”
Zansberg has a slightly different take.
“While my clients are generally in favor of more information coming out, the Judge, we believe, properly held that the transcript is very different under the law than a record of official action like the Grand Jury’s indictment.”
Both Lacy and Zansberg say they don’t believe releasing the rest of the information will compromise the case in anyway.
“It won’t make any difference,” Lacy said.
“It would illuminate the proposed charges where the Grand Jury found there was no probable cause,” Zansberg said.
When asked if releasing the indictment will hamper future prosecution, Zansberg replied, “I can’t imagine any way in which an indictment from 16 years ago would hamper any efforts to bring JonBenet Ramsey’s murderer to justice.”
Patsy Ramsey died in 2006, 10 years after her daughter was murdered. She is buried next to her daughter in Georgia, where the Ramseys moved from Boulder.
John Ramsey remarried in 2011 -- five years after Patsy's death.