The recent CBS docuseries called The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey sparked controversy when it put forth a theory that the little girl's older brother, Burke Ramsey, was the one who killed her. Just days after the show aired, though, the Ramsey family has made it very clear that they are outraged by the allegations, and Burke is now planning to sue CBS for defamation.
The special CBS aired relied on a panel of experts as it explored the 20-year-old unsolved murder case of the 6-year-old girl. The conclusion of those investigators was that JonBenet's older brother, Burke Ramsey, killed the little girl by possibly hitting her on the head with a heavy flashlight. The docuseries alleges that after the murder, which may have been an accident, the family then covered up the crime. The theory that the boy, who was 9-years-old at the time, killed his sister and the parents protected him is not one that everyone actually agrees with, but it has drawn widespread attention and got many people talking.It is a situation and a conclusion that the Ramsey family has called "disgusting," and one for which their lawyer L. Lin Wood says CBS will be sued. People wrote that the family's attorney, on behalf of Burke Ramsey, says he will be bringing a defamation suit against CBS.
"I'm absolutely going to sue CBS on behalf of Burke as a result of the false accusations and the fraud of the docuseries by CBS... CBS perpetrated a fraud on its viewers – there was no new investigation by the phony TV 'experts.' CBS intentionally avoided and ignored the truth of the mass of evidence."
The theory CBS has out forth is actually in direct contradiction to the findings of the original autopsy done on JonBenet, as those results said that the little girl died from asphyxia strangulation associated with a head trauma. Many theories suggested how JonBenet was killed and who did it, most of which placed blame with the girl's parents. Some people believe one of them had killed her before staging the scene to make it look like an intruder had done it.
Prosecutors never pursued the family. In fact, Lin Wood argues that CBS ignored the determination of the Boulder District Attorney and Boulder Police Department in May 1999 that Burke Ramsey was unequivocally not a suspect or even a possible one in the murder of his sister. Also, a 2003 ruling by Georgia Federal Judge Julie Carnes agreed that there was abundant evidence to support JonBenet's parents' assertions "that an intruder entered their home at some point during the night of December 25, 1996, and killed their daughter." Lin also pointed to the public exoneration that Boulder District Attorney gave to the Ramsey family in 2008 based on conclusive DNA evidence.
For their part, according to TMZ, the network has no intention of backing down, have no intentions to withdraw the conclusion of their docuseries, and "[stand] by the broadcast and will do so in court." If the family really does sue CBS for defamation, they will have the burden of proving that the statements are incorrect, and as such, the case could very well take the place of a murder trial.For a successful defamation suit, though, the family will have to prove that the accusations levied against Burke Ramsey are not only false but have also caused him some type of harm. They will also have to show that CBS was at fault for the statements and that they were made publicly. Considering millions of people either saw the series or heard its conclusion, that part should be easiest to prove.
Insight into the possible defamation case was also provided by Harvard Law Professor John Goldberg, who says that an additional burden of proof is actually on Burke Ramsey due to his semi-public figure status and the fact that he himself has publicly spoken about the case, like he has done in a recent Dr. Phil interview.
"Burke could only prevail on a defamation claim against CBS or the investigators by proving not only that the allegations against him are false, but also that CBS and/or the investigators either KNEW that they were false when they made them, or were RECKLESS with regard to the truth or falsity of the allegations."
[Featured Image by CBS Broadcasting Inc.]