It became a game - a blood sport to be played for the greatest entertainment value. The public craves this stuff - the sexual abuse and murder of a blond child beauty queen - and has a pathological need to hate.
John Karr became the perfect media Piñata. Sell newspapers, get ratings. Who cares what it does to the justice system or the idea that suspects should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Let's all pile on. This is too good. So what if there didn't appear to be any real evidence against this disturbed, delusional man.
The Tabloids went on a feeding frenzy to outdo each other. "Snake on the Plane", The New York Post called John Karr. "Prissy Perv Whines" and "Wolf" are other headlines used by the Post. The New York Daily News called him a "Ghoul" and a "Perv".
It was a great two-week story, and a horrific misappropriation of priorities. Think of the thousands of reporters who went chasing after this non-story. Wasn't there anything else going on in the world? What about a couple of wars?
The Washington Post had it on page 1. Did this flimsy news really deserve 2,478 words on the front page of the New York Times?
Look at all the New York Times reporters working on the story:
"By RICK LYMAN and RALPH BLUMENTHAL; Rick Lyman reported from New York for this article, and Ralph Blumenthal from Boulder, Colo. Additional reporting was contributed by Raymond Bonner in Jakarta, Indonesia; Nick Bunkley in Charlevoix, Mich.; Dan Frosch and Mindy Sink in Boulder; Brenda Goodman in Atlanta; Virginia Heffernan, Jennifer 8. Lee and Ben Sisario in New York; Carolyn Marshall in Petaluma, Calif.; Jim Noles in Birmingham, Ala.; and Scott Shane in Washington."
CNN and FOX and other mainstream media were not far behind in jettisoning the presumption of innocence. They used any excuse to replay video of six-year-old JonBenet prancing around in skimpy outfits like a courtesan. It was John Karr and JonBenet Ramsey 24 hours a day. CNN's Larry King put Karr's ex-wife on to say that she had been abused for years, ten years ago.
Give the public what they want.