JonBenet Ramsey Case: Judge Orders DA To Show Why Secret Indictment Of Parents Should Remain Secret

10/17/2013 06:25 pm ET

In 1999, a grand jury in the brutal murder case of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey voted to indict her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey. But then-Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to sign it, citing that he could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The indictment's existence was not known until earlier this year. Now a judge has ruled that the current Boulder DA Stan Garnett must show why the un-prosecuted indictment must remain secret.

"The court concludes that the secrecy required in the grand jury process is not compromised through a process that requires the presentment of the indictment in open court," Weld County Judge Robert Lowenbach wrote, The Boulder Daily Camera first reported. "Under this procedure, there is no breach of the secrecy and confidentiality expected in grand jury proceedings," Lowenbach continued. "It is ordered therefore that the defendant (Garnett) show cause why he should not be required to disclose the requested documents."

Daily Camera Reporter Charlie Brennan and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed the lawsuit in Boulder District Court in September. "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," the complaint reads. Brennan and the RCFP also argue that the indictment should be made public in the interest of government transparency.

But Boulder DA's office said releasing the document would be a "breach of promise" to the jury, citing the importance of maintaining the integrity of grand jury secrecy.

In a statement about the decision to keep the documents involved in the indictment secret obtained by HuffPost, Chief Trial Deputy Sean Finn wrote:

The plaintiffs interest in the documents they have requested is understandable; few cases have captured the interest of Coloradans, and people throughout the world, like the death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. The resultant, 17 year media fascination with this case makes perfect sense; every time a story appears in the media about this tragic case, the public takes notice.

But the issues raised by Plaintiffs' request and lawsuit are more important than any one case. Every grand juror, and every witness who appears before a grand jury, takes an oath of secrecy, and every witness and grand juror is promised that those involved in the process will honor that oath. For this defendant to accede to Plaintiffs' request and hand over documents from this grand jury would be a breach of promise to the hundreds of citizens serving on grand juries across Colorado, and would undermine the assurances given to grand jurors and witnesses who will be promised secrecy in the future.

On Dec. 26, 1996, 6-year-old JonBenet was found bludgeoned and strangled to death in the basement of her family home. A ransom note from an anonymous group of individuals "that represent a foreign faction" asking for $118,000 in exchange for the safe return of JonBenet was found just hours before, but no call ever came from a kidnapper and it was never linked to a murderer.

The entire Ramsey family was cleared of any involvement in the murder of JonBenet back in 2008, thanks to then newly discovered DNA evidence, according to 9News. Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's mother, died 2 years earlier in 2006 of ovarian cancer. Tragically, she was still considered a possible suspect when she died.

Investigators reopened the case in 2010 and launched a fresh round of interviews with witnesses that could provide more insight into the murder, according to ABC News, but nothing fruitful came of those interviews.

The DNA evidence still points to an "unexplained third party" that serves as a vague lead for authorities still pursuing the case, TIME magazine reported.

Boulder police have tested more than 150 DNA samples and investigated nearly the same amount of potential suspects in their ongoing investigation, but none have ever been linked to the crime.

After all these years, Boulder police have received thousands of tips about her murder and still receive several monthly. DA Garnett said in 2011 that he personally gets two or three tips a week from all over the world. The ones that have potential are passed along to Boulder police's Major Case Unit. There have been plenty of false leads as well, including most famously John Mark Karr -- who bizarrely admitted to being with JonBenet the night of her death, but DNA evidence later cleared him of any wrongdoing in this case.

For a thorough timeline of the case's major moments, visit The Daily Camera's interactive timeline of events from 1996 through 2012.

It remains one of the most notorious murders in U.S. history -- and, a decade and a half later, there is still no justice for JonBenet. If she were alive today, JonBenet would be 23.

Also on HuffPost:

JonBenet Ramsey Case

CONVERSATIONS