The district attorney of Boulder County, Colorado, says he cannot say if he would have signed an indictment against the parents of JonBenet Ramsey -- the 6-year-old beauty queen killed in 1996 -- as a predecessor declined to do three years after the child's death.
"I don't know if I would have made the same decision, but I know how difficult these decisions are," Stan Garnett wrote in his first comments after the release of the indictment.
Previously sealed court documents released Friday show that a Colorado grand jury voted in 1999 to indict John and Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's parents, on charges of child abuse resulting in death and being accessories to a crime.
But then-District Attorney Alex Hunter said there was insufficient evidence to warrant filing charges, and he did not sign the indictment.
From the beginning, John Ramsey and his late wife maintained they had nothing to do with their daughter's death. His lawyer has said there was no evidence to prosecute them, and they were later exonerated by DNA tests.
Garnett, who took office in 2009, wrote a lengthy op-ed in Sunday's Daily Camera of Boulder explaining his position on the case, which captured national media attention after the little girl was found dead in her family's home the day after Christmas 1996.
Garnett wrote that he had his staff look at the case after he took office four years ago. His appellate department told him the statute of limitations had run out on the charges in the indictment. As for any other charge, the DA's staff found nothing to pursue, he said.
Garnett wrote he will not comment on the case -- at this time.
"My, or my staff's view of what the evidence in the Ramsey case proves will only be stated in open court if a case is ever filed," he wrote, adding the Ramseys are entitled to the "full presumption of innocence."
Ramsey attorney wants full review
On Friday, an attorney for John Ramsey and his family urged Garnett to publicly open "the entire grand jury record and not just four pages from an 18-month investigation that produced volumes of testimony and exhibits."
The released indictments "are nonsensical," said attorney L. Lin Wood. "They reveal nothing about the evidence reviewed by the grand jury and are clearly the result of a confused and compromised process. The Ramsey family and the public are entitled to the benefit of the full and complete record, not just a historical footnote. Fairness dictates that result."
Wood, in a statement, said the grand jury didn't have what was later to be "the conclusive 2008 DNA testing that led to the unequivocal, public exoneration of the Ramsey family by the Boulder district attorney."
That year, another district attorney, Mary Lacy, wrote a letter to John Ramsey, saying that new DNA evidence tests had cleared him, his late wife and their son. She formally apologized for the cloud of suspicion the Ramseys had lived under for years.
Garnett wrote that a district attorney's job is to seek justice, not to forgive, "and rarely to 'exonerate.' "
He said he believes "straying from this role can be very confusing to the public and can create false impressions of certainty about uncertain evidence, subject to conflicting inferences, that has never been presented and tested in open court."
'A killer on the loose'
The Ramsey case has never been tried, something that frustrates the community, Garnett wrote.
"Because no case has ever been brought against anyone in (the) Ramsey (case), the community has had no resolution and the tabloid press has been free to speculate, sometimes recklessly, based on only parts of the evidence," he said.
In the days after the killing, Boulder police and the media focused on John and Patsy Ramsey. The parents always insisted that an intruder had killed JonBenet.