Lawyer for JonBenet Ramsey family vows to sue CBS over documentary

Burke Ramsey, brother of slain beauty pageant contestant JonBenet Ramsey, arrives for the burial service of his mother Patsy Ramsey in Marietta, Georgia on June 29, 2006.
Burke Ramsey, brother of slain beauty pageant contestant JonBenet Ramsey, arrives for the burial service of his mother Patsy Ramsey in Marietta, Georgia on June 29, 2006.PHOTO: REUTERS

DENVER (Reuters) - The lawyer for the family of slain child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey denounced a CBS documentary theorising she was killed by her brother, Burke, as a "false and unprofessional television attack" and threatened to sue the network for libel.

L. Lin Wood, an Atlanta attorney who said he had successfully sued other media outlets over similar accusations against Burke Ramsey, branded the programme as a broadcast riddled with "lies, misrepresentations, distortions and omissions".

"I will be filing a lawsuit on behalf of Burke Ramsey," Mr Wood told Reuters in a telephone interview. "CBS' false and unprofessional attacks on this young man are disgusting and revolting."

The network responded to Mr Wood with a terse statement: "CBS stands by the broadcast and will do so in court."

The two-part, four-hour programme aired amid a wave of media coverage surrounding the 20th anniversary of the JonBenet Ramsey case, one of the most sensational unsolved murders in the annals of American crime.

The body of the blonde, blue-eyed girl, who had been beaten and strangled, was found in the basement of her parents' Boulder, Colorado, home on Dec 26, 1996, hours after her parents reported the six-year-old child missing and a ransom note left in the house.

No one has been charged with her murder. A grand jury voted in 1999 to indict the parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, but then-District Attorney Alex Hunter declined to file charges, citing a lack of evidence.

In the conclusion of the CBS show that aired on Monday (Sept 19), a panel of experts said it was its opinion that Burke Ramsey, who was nine at the time of the homicide, struck his sister in the head with a heavy object, perhaps not intending to kill her.

The girl's parents then staged a crime scene to make it appear that an intruder was the culprit, the group of law enforcement, forensic pathologists and other experts concluded.

Mr Wood called CBS "corporate profit mongers" who aired the programme during the September "sweeps" for maximum ratings benefit.

In a recent interview on the Dr Phil talk show, Burke Ramsey, now 29, denied that he harmed his sister, and said he suspected a paedophile who stalked child beauty pageants was the killer.

Mr Wood said that a written disclaimer CBS aired with its show, saying the opinions "represent just some of a number of possible scenarios", did not go far enough.