Former prosecutor and law professor Karen Steinhauser said grand juries sometimes hear evidence that won’t be admitted during trial that can form the basis of indictments.
But she added that prosecutors must have a good faith belief that they could prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt before pursuing charges.
“I’m not sure that the release of this indictment is going to change the fact that there has not been able to be a prosecution and probably won’t be able to be a prosecution,” she said.
David Lane, a defense attorney who was not involved in the case, said the indictments could have been an attempt to force the parents to turn against each other, which he said was unlikely because both were protected by laws that limit testimony of one spouse against another.
“Somebody killed JonBenet Ramsey,” Lane said. “It sounds like they were accused of aiding and abetting each other, with the hope someone would crack and break. That didn’t happen, and prosecutors may have decided not to go forward.”
The Daily Camera reported earlier this year that the grand jury had issued the indictment. The actual documents were released Friday in response to a lawsuit by Daily Camera reporter Charlie Brennan and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett determined the release would not violate grand jury secrecy rules, and transferred the documents to Robert Lowenbach, a retired Weld County judge, for review.
Lowenbach said Wednesday that only pages signed by the grand jury foreman would be releasable as official actions of the jury. His order mentioned 18 pages in all — nine relating to each of JonBenet’s parents. Four pages — two each relating to the parents — were released Friday.
John Ramsey didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in 2006, the same year a globe-hopping school teacher was arrested in Thailand after falsely claiming to have killed JonBenet. Former District Attorney Mary Lacy cleared the Ramseys in 2008 based on new DNA testing that suggested the killer was a stranger, not a family member.
Lacy did not return a phone call on Friday.
Over the years, some experts have suggested that investigators botched the case so thoroughly that it might never be solved.
Earlier this week, John Ramsey asked officials to release the entire grand jury record if the unprosecuted indictment was made public.
However, Lowenbach said transcripts of grand jury proceedings and evidence presented to it are not considered official action under the law governing criminal court records. He also said releasing such information could hurt other grand juries, whose work is secret.
An attorney representing John Ramsey, L. Lin Wood, has said he’s confident that no evidence in the grand jury case implicated the Ramsey family and the public should be able to see that for themselves.