One Denver legal analyst who has been following the case for 17 years said Friday's revelation was "another extraordinary event in this extraordinary case."
For a district attorney not to endorse a grand jury's charge is "exceptionally rare," said analyst Craig Silverman, who was chief deputy district attorney in Denver for 16 years.
Silverman described the past prosecutors' decisions in the case as sometimes "bizarre" and "strange" and said "there was so much dissension" in the past between Boulder police and prosecutors.
"Why would a D.A. have a grand jury deliberate and vote if he is not going to pursue the charges that they bring back?" Silverman said. "And did the grand jury come up with those charges on their own? No way. One of the D.A.s had to provide that verbiage."
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the indictments merely show that a majority of the grand jurors felt there was probable cause to charge the parents -- a lower standard than proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"It doesn't precisely say that the grand jury thought they killed JonBenet," Toobin said. "It's not precisely clear what they thought they did."
The grand jury in 1999 didn't have the DNA findings that emerged in 2008, Toobin said.
Winner of child pageants
As a little beauty queen, JonBenet pranced across the stage and into America's heart 17 years ago. In heavy makeup, almost like a real-life doll, her images captivated the nation with every strut, every twirl, every wave.
But even with the fame that followed her death, the question of who killed her remains unanswered.
An analysis of the girl's clothes showed the source of the DNA was not a family member, according to court documents.
Death of a beauty queen
On Christmas of 1996, JonBenet received a gift bike. The next day, her parents called police to report she had been kidnapped. The mother found a note demanding a ransom of $118,000 for her return.
But later that day, JonBenet was found dead in the family basement.
Questions and speculation reigned, and the country was riveted by the videotaped performances of JonBenet and her big blonde hair at child beauty pageants. Her parents lived under a cloud of suspicion. Were they involved? Was there an intruder in the house that night?
Years went by. The innocent little girl remained forever 6.
In October 1999, grand jurors assigned to the case went back home, sworn to silence. The eight women and four men had convened regularly for 13 months. They heard from dozens of witnesses, considered 30,000 pieces of evidence. All with one question in mind: Who killed JonBenet?
They had nothing to show for their efforts. Or so it seemed.
On Wednesday -- 14 years after the grand jury dispersed -- Judge J. Robert Lowenbach ordered the release of four pages of sealed documents, as requested by local journalists.