CARNES, District Judge.
This case is presently before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment ; defendants' motion in limine to exclude the testimony of Cina Wong and Gideon Epstein ; and defendants' motion for oral argument .
This diversity case is one of the many civil suits that arose in the wake of the widely-publicized and unsolved murder of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado, on December 26, 1996. Plaintiff Robert Christian Wolf is a Boulder, Colorado, resident who was named by defendent JonBenet's parents, on national television and in their book about their daughter's murder, The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth (hereinafter referred to as the "Book"), as a potential suspect in JonBenet's death. Plaintiff claims that, to the extent defendants expressed an opinion that he might have killed their daughter, defendants knew such a statement to be untrue because defendant Patsy Ramsey killed her daughter and John Ramsey assisted her in covering up the crime.
The Court draws the undisputed facts from "Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts" ("SMF")  and "Plaintiffs Response to Defendants' Statement of Material Facts" ("PSMF"), in which plaintiff does not dispute the overwhelming majority of defendants' factual allegations. When plaintiff has disputed a specific fact and pointed to evidence in the record that supports its version of events, the Court has viewed all evidence and factual inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff, as required on a defendant's motion for summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); McCabe v. Sharrett, 12 F.3d 1558, 1560 (11th Cir. 1994); Reynolds v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 989 F.2d 465, 469 (11th Cir.1993). In addition, the Court has reviewed plaintiffs separate statements of disputed material facts  ("PSDMF"), which consist, for the most part, of a restatement of theories espoused by former Boulder Police Detective Steven Thomas
I. The Timeline of the Crime and the Crime Scene
Sometime on the night of December 25 or the early morning of December 26, 1996, JonBenet Ramsey was murdered. (SMF ¶ 2.) JonBenet's body was found in the basement of defendant's home. (SMF 115; PSMF ¶ 5.) Defendants have never been charged, arrested, or indicted for any offense in connection with the murder of JonBenet, and they deny any involvement in her death, although they have been under an "umbrella of suspicion" from almost the beginning of the murder investigation. (SMF ¶¶6-7; PSMF ¶¶ 6-7.)
On the night of December 25, 1996, the Ramsey family attended a Christmas party at the home of their friends Fleet and Priscilla White. (SMF ¶2; PSMF ¶ 12.) Nothing out-of-the-ordinary occurred at the party and the Ramsey family appeared happy. (¶13; PSMF ¶13.) On the drive home from the party, JonBenet and her brother Burke fell asleep in the car. Defendants put the children to bed when they returned home and then went to bed soon there after. (SMF ¶ 13 PSMF ¶ 13.) The family planned to rise early the following morning because they were to fly to Charlevoix, Michigan for a family vacation. (SMF ¶ 13; PSMF ¶ 13.)
JonBenet and Burke's bedrooms were located on the second floor of the Ramsey home. There was also an empty guest bedroom on the second floor, located atop the garage. Defendants' bedroom was located on the third floor of the Ramsey home in a converted attic space. The home also contained a basement. (SMF ¶ 14; PSMF ¶ 14.) There were two stairwells leading from the second floor to the ground floor level. The back stairwell led into the kitchen, where there was a butler door that led into the basement.
Defendants claim they were not awakened during the night. A neighbor who lived across the street from defendants' home, however, reported that she heard a scream during the early morning of December 26, 1996. Experiments have demonstrated that the vent from the basement may have amplified the scream so that it could have been heard outside of the house, but not three stories up, in defendants' bedroom. (SMF ¶48; PSMF ¶ 148.) The following morning, defendants assert they woke around 5:30 a.m. and proceeded to get ready for their trip. While Mr. Ramsey took a shower, Mrs. Ramsey put back on the same outfit she had on the night before and reapplied her
Plaintiff, however, contends that Mrs. Ramsey did not go to sleep the night of December 25, but instead killed her daughter and spent the rest of the night covering her crime, as evidenced by the fact she was wearing the same outfit the following morning. (PSMF ¶ 15.) He further posits that Mrs. Ramsey authored the Ransom Note in an attempt to stage a crime scene to make it appear as if an intruder had entered their home. (PSMF ¶16; PSDMF ¶¶ 38-39.) Plaintiff theorizes that, at some point in the night, Jon-Benet awoke after wetting her bed
Plaintiff further contends, based again solely on Mr. Thomas's speculation, that "Mrs. Ramsey thought JonBenet was dead, but in fact she was unconscious with her heart still beating." (PSDMF ¶ 47.) Mr. Thomas then surmises that "[i]t was that critical moment in which she had to either call for help or find an alternative explanation for her daughter's death." (PSDMF ¶ 48.) Plaintiff then speculates that Mrs. Ramsey chose the latter route and spent the remainder of the night staging an elaborate coverup of the incident.
Specifically, plaintiff theorizes that, with Mr. Ramsey and Burke still asleep, Mrs. Ramsey moved the body of JonBenet to the basement, returned upstairs to draft the Ransom Note, then returned to the basement where she "could have seen—perhaps by detecting a faint heartbeat or a
After murdering her child and staging the crime, plaintiff opines that, to cover her tracks, Mrs. Ramsey must have taken the items she used in the staging out of the house, "perhaps dropping them into a nearby storm sewer or among Christmas debris and wrappings in a neighbor's trash can." (¶¶ 53-54.) Indeed, the sources for the duct tape and cord used in the crime were never located, nor sourced,
Mrs. Ramsey disputes the above recitation of facts. She claims that, upon waking, she put back on the same clothes she had on the night before and applied her makeup. She then states she went downstairs to prepare for their departure on the family trip. (SMF ¶ 17.) As she descended the back stairwell, she discovered the Ransom Note and read only those few lines stating that JonBenet was kidnapped, but "safe and unharmed," and demanding $118,000 for her return. (SMF ¶ 17; PSMF ¶ 17.) Mrs. Ramsey immediately screamed and proceeded to check JonBenet's room, which was empty. (SMF ¶ 18; PSMF ¶ 8.) After hearing Mrs. Ramsey's scream, Mr. Ramsey ran downstairs and met Mrs. Ramsey in the stairwell. Together, they checked on their son who appeared to be asleep in his room. (SMF ¶ 18; PSMF ¶ 18.) Mr. Ramsey then went downstairs to read the Ransom Note, while Mrs. Ramsey called the police, informing them that her child had been kidnapped. (SMF ¶ 19; PSMF ¶ 19.) In addition to calling the police, defendants called several friends to their house, including Fleet and Priscilla White, who promptly came to the defendants' home. (SMF ¶ 20; PSMF ¶ 20.)
Plaintiff contends Mr. Ramsey probably first grew suspicious while reading the Ransom Note that morning, which surmise is again based solely on the opinion of Mr. Thomas. (PSDMF ¶56.) Plaintiff speculates that upon examining the Ransom Note, Mr. Ramsey "must have seen his wife's writing mannerisms all over it, everything but her signature." (PSDMF ¶ 56.) Upon determining that his wife was involved in JonBenet's disappearance, plaintiff surmises that Mr. Ramsey chose to protect his wife, rather than to facilitate the capture of his daughter's murderer. (PSDMF ¶57.) Mr. Ramsey asserts, however, that he never once suspected his wife
A series of events transpired that severely compromised the crime scene. Office Rick French of the Boulder Police arrived at the defendants' home in a marked car a few minutes before six a.m., followed soon after by Detective Linda Arndt. (SMF ¶ 21; PSMF ¶ 21.) Contrary to normal protocol, the police did not seal off the defendants' home, with the sole exception being the interior of JonBenet's bedroom. In other words, any person in the Ramsey house could, and often did, move freely throughout the home. (SMF ¶21; PSMF ¶22.)
The Whites arrived at defendant's home at approximately 6:00 a.m., and Mr. White, alone, searched the basement within fifteen minutes of arrival. (SMF ¶ 23; PSMF ¶ 23.) Mr. White testified that when he began his search, the lights were already on in the basement and the door in the hallway leading to the basement "wine cellar" room
Later that same morning, at around ten a.m., Mr. Ramsey also searched the basement area alone. He testified he found the broken window partially open. (SMF If 30; PSMF If 30; J. Ramsey Dep. at 30.) Under the broken window, Mr. Ramsey also saw the same suitcase seen earlier by Mr. White. Mr. Ramsey testified that the suitcase belonged to his family, but was normally stored in a different place. (SMF ¶ 31; PSMF ¶31; J. Ramsey Dep. at 17.)
Later that afternoon, Mr. Ramsey and Mr. White together returned to the basement at the suggestion of the Boulder Police. (SMF ¶ 32; PSMF ¶ 32; White Dep. at 212-217; J. Ramsey Dep. at 17-20.) During this joint search of the basement, the men first examined the playroom and observed the broken window. (SMF ¶ 33; PSMF ¶ 33.) The men next searched a shower stall located in the basement. (SMF ¶ 34; PSMF ¶ 34.) Mr. Ramsey then noticed a heavy fireplace grate propped in front of a closet and Mr. White moved the grate so the closet could be searched. (SMF ¶ 35; PSMF ¶ 35.) Upon finding nothing unusual in the closet, the men proceeded to the wine cellar room. Mr. Ramsey entered the room first, turned on the light and, upon discovery of JonBenet's dead body, he exclaimed "Oh my God, my baby." (SMF ¶ 36, 37; PSMF ¶ 36, 37; White Dep. at 162-63, 193-93.)
JonBenet had black duct tape covering her mouth, a cord around her neck that was attached to a wooden garrote, and her hands were bound over her head in front of her; she was covered by a light-colored blanket. (SMF ¶ 138; PSMF ¶ 138.) A "Barbie" nightgown belonging to JonBenet was also found in the wine cellar near her body. (SMF ¶ 149; PSMF ¶ 149.) Jon-Benet's blood was found only on her body and the Barbie nightgown. (SMF ¶ 150; PSMF ¶ 150.) Mr. Ramsey ripped the duct tape off JonBenet's mouth and attempted to untie her hands. (SMF ¶ 39; PSMF 139.) He then carried her body upstairs. (SMF ¶ 39; PSMF ¶ 39.) It was only upon the discovery of JonBenet's body that the Boulder police began to secure properly the home as the crime scene. (SMF ¶ 53; PSMF ¶ 53.)
JonBenet's body was bound with complicated rope slipknots and a garrotte attached to her body. (Defs.' Br. In Supp. Of Summ. J.  at 19; SMF ¶ 163; PSMF ¶ 163.) The slipknots and the garrote are both sophisticated bondage devices designed to give control to the user. (SMF ¶ 161, 164; PSMF ¶ 161, 164.) Evidence from these devices suggests they were made by someone with expertise using rope and cords, which cords could not be found or "sourced" within defendants' home. (SMF ¶ 169; PSMF ¶ 169.) The garrote consisted of a wooden handle fashioned from the middle of a paintbrush, found in the paint tray in the boiler room. The end of a nylon cord was tied to this wooden handle and, on the other end, was a loop with a slipknot, with JonBenet's neck within the loop. (SMF ¶¶ 157-158; PSMF ¶¶ 157-158.) The end portion of the paintbrush used to construct the garrote was never found. (SMF ¶59; PSMF ¶ 159.) No evidence exists that either defendant knew how to tie such knots. (SMF ¶ 162; PSMF ¶ 162.) Further, fibers consistent with those of the cord used to make the slip knots and garrote were found on JonBenet's bed. (SMF ¶ 168; PSMF ¶ 168.) Although plaintiff agrees the garrote is the instrument used to murder JonBenet, he argues that the cord with which the wrists were tied would not have bound a live child and is evidence of a staging. (PSDMF ¶ 51.)
The black duct tape used on JonBenet's mouth has also not been sourced to defendants. (SMF ¶ 170; PSMF ¶ 170.) Both ends of the duct tape found on her were torn, indicating that it came from a roll of tape that had been used before. (SMF ¶ 171; PSMF ¶ 171.) No similar duct tape was found in the house, nor is there evidence that defendants ever used or owned such duct tape. (SMF ¶ 172; PSMF ¶ 172.) Plaintiff also notes that the strip of duct tape found on JonBenet's mouth
Several recently-made unidentified shoeprints were found in the basement, imprinted in mold growing on the basement floor. (SMF ¶ 151; PSMF ¶ 151.) In particular, a shoeprint of a "HI-TEC" brand mark on the sole of a shoe was found. (SMF ¶ 152; PSMF ¶ 152.) Defendants do not own any "HI-TEC" brand shoes, and none of the shoes found in their home match the shoeprint marks. (SMF ¶ 153; PSMF ¶ 153.) Another partial shoeprint was found near where JonBenet's body was found. (SMF ¶ 155; PSMF ¶ 155.) This shoeprint left only a partial logo. The owner of the "HI-TEC" shoe that made the shoeprints at the murder scene has never been identified. (SMF ¶ 154, 155; PSMF ¶ 154, 155.) In addition, on the wine-cellar door, there is a palmprint that does not match either of defendants' palmprints. (SMF ¶ 156; PSMF ¶ 156.) The individual to whom it belongs had not yet been identified. (SMF ¶156; PSMF ¶ 156.)
Finally, items were left behind that defendants assert they did not own. (Defs.' Br. In Supp. Of Summ. J.  at 18-19.) A baseball bat not owned by the Ramseys found on the north side of the house has fibers consistent with fibers found in the carpet in the basement where JonBenet's body was found. (SMF ¶ 185; PSMF ¶ 185.) A rope was found inside a brown paper sack in the guest bedroom of defendants' home, neither of which belonged to defendants. (SMF ¶ 181; PSMF ¶ 181.) Small pieces of the brown sack material were found in the "vacuuming" of JonBenet's bed and in the body bag that was used to transport her body. (SMF ¶ 181; PSMF ¶ 181.) Brown cotton fibers on JonBenet's body, the paintbrush, the duct tape and on the ligature were not sourced and do not match anything in the Ramsey home. (SMF ¶ 181; PSMF ¶ 181.)
The autopsy of JonBenet's body was conducted on December 27, 1996 by the Boulder County Coroner's Office. (SMF ¶ 40; PSMF ¶ 40.) The cause of JonBenet's death was asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma. (SMF ¶ 41; PSMF 41.) The autopsy report supports the conclusion that she was alive before she was asphyxiated by strangulation and that she fought her attacker in some manner. (SMF ¶ 42-43, 46, 48; PSMF ¶ 42-43, 46, 48.) Evidence gathered during the autopsy is consistent with the inference that she struggled to remove the garrote from her neck. (SMF ¶44; PSMF ¶ 44.) Moreover, both parties agree the autopsy report reveals injury to JonBenet's genitalia consistent with a sexual assault shortly before her death. (SMF ¶ 48; PSMF ¶ 48.)
The coroner took nail clippings from JonBenet. Male DNA was found under JonBenet's right hand fingernail that does not match that of any Ramsey. (SMF ¶ 174; PSMF ¶ 174.) Defendants also assert that male DNA was found under Jon-Benet's left hand fingernail, which also does not match that of any Ramsey. (SMF ¶ 173.) In addition, male DNA was found in JonBenet's underwear that does not match that of any Ramsey and has not yet been sourced. (SMF ¶¶ 175, 178; PSMF ¶¶ 75, 178.) The Boulder Police Department has yet to identify the male whose DNA was found at the crime scene. (SMF ¶77; PSMF ¶77.) Finally, a Caucasian "pubic or auxiliary" hair was found on the blanket covering JonBenet's body. (SMF ¶79; PSMF ¶79.) The hair does not match that of any Ramsey and has not been sourced. (SMF ¶ 80; PSMF ¶ 180.)
Finally, the coroner's report notes injuries on the right side of JonBenet's face and left lower back. While defendants assert that these injuries are consistent with the use of a stun gun, plaintiff notes that the coroner's report does not expressly state the injuries were the result of such an instrument. (SMF ¶ 47; PSMF 47.) Dr. Michael Doberson, a forensic pathologist retained by defendants who examined the Boulder Coroner's autopsy report and autopsy photos, concludes the injuries to "the right side of the face as well as on the lower left back are patterned injuries most consistent with the application of a stun gun." (Report of Michael Doberson, M.D., Ph.D. at 5(A), attach, as Ex. 3 to Defs.' Ex. Vol. I, Part A.)
II. The Ransom Note
The Ransom Note is believed by all parties to have been written by the killer or an accomplice of the killer and remains an extremely important clue in the murder investigation. (PSDMF ¶ 4.) Plaintiff claims that the single best piece of evidence that ties Mrs. Ramsey to the crime is the Ransom Note. (Id.) Mrs. Ramsey, however, flatly denies that she had anything to do with the note's creation. (SMF II189; PSMF ¶ 89.) Due to the pivotal role the Ransom Note plays in plaintiffs' allegation that Mrs. Ramsey was the murderer of her child, the facts surrounding the Ransom Note will be discussed in detail.
The Ransom Note was quite long, and in fact is one of the longest ransom notes in the history of kidnapping cases. (PSDMF ¶ 7.) This fact is important because the longer a document is, the harder it becomes to disguise one's handwriting. (PSDMF ¶ 9.) The Ransom Note is addressed to Mr. Ramsey alone and purports to be written by a group of individuals who "represent a small foreign faction" that have kidnapped defendants' daughter and seek $118,000 for her safe return. The Ransom Note was signed "S.B.T.C.", after the salutation "Victory!". (Ransom Note at 3.) The author of the Ransom Note instructs Mr. Ramsey to "[u]se that good southern [sic] common sense," an obviously inaccurate reference as Mr. Ramsey was originally from Michigan, whereas Mrs. Ramsey was originally from West Virginia. (Id.)
Both parties agree that the Ransom Note is not an ideal specimen for handwriting analysis, primarily due to the type of writing instrument, a broad fiber-tip pen, used to draft the note. This type of pen distorts and masks fine details to an extent not achievable by other types of pen, as for example a ball point pen. (SMF ¶ 243; PSMF ¶ 243.) In addition, the stroke direction used to construct certain letters and subtle handprinting features, such as hesitations and pen lifts, are difficult to ascertain because of the pen used in the Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 244; PSMF ¶ 244.) Finally, the handwriting in the original Ransom Note showed consistency throughout the entire writing. (SMF ¶ 246; PSMF ¶ 246.) One of the most common means to disguise one's handwriting is to attempt to make the script erratic throughout the text. In sum, for the above reasons, the Ransom Note is not an ideal specimen for handwriting analysis. Nevertheless, the writer does not appear to have been trying to disguise his or her handwriting.
During the investigation, the Boulder Police Department and Boulder County District Attorney's Office consulted at least six handwriting experts. (SMF ¶ 191; PSMF ¶ 191.) All of these experts consulted the original Ransom Note and original handwriting exemplars from Mrs. Ramsey. (SMF ¶ 205; PSMF ¶ 205.) Four of these experts were hired by the police and two were hired by defendants. (SMF ¶ 191; PSMF ¶ 191.) All six experts agreed that Mr. Ramsey could be eliminated as the author of the Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 194; PSMF ¶ 194.) None of the six consulted experts identified Mrs. Ramsey as the author of the Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 195; PSMF ¶ 195.) Rather, the experts' consensus was that she "probably did not" write the Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 196; PSMF ¶196.)
Plaintiff, however, asserts that his retained experts believe Mrs. Ramsey to be the author of the Ransom Note. Indeed, Gideon Epstein and Cina Wong, the handwriting experts proffered by plaintiff, opine that they are "100 percent certain" Mrs. Ramsey wrote the Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 256; PSMF ¶ 256; PSDMF ¶¶ 1-2.) In contrast to the experts relied upon by defendants and by the Boulder Police Department, however, neither of these experts have ever seen or examined the original Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 256; PSMF ¶ 256.) In fact, Mr. Epstein and Ms. Wong do not know what "generation" copy of the Ransom Note they examined. (SMF ¶ 257; PSMF ¶ 257.) Ms. Wong received her copy of the Ransom Note and certain writings alleged to be historical writings of Mrs. Ramsey from the tabloid, The National Enquirer. (SMF ¶ 258; PSMF ¶ 258.) Although it is widely considered "very important" to consult the original versions of writings when engaging in handwriting analysis, plaintiff asserts it was impossible for his experts to consult such materials because defendants failed to provide him with original exemplars.
III. The Investigation of the Murder
At the time of JonBenet's murder, the Boulder Police Department had limited experience in conducting a murder investigation. (SMF ¶ 70; PSMF ¶ 70.) Commander Jon Eller was primarily responsible for the investigation, which was his first murder investigation. (SMF ¶ 67; PSMF ¶ 67.) One lead detective assigned to the case, Steven Thomas, had no prior experience with a murder investigation and had previously served as an undercover narcotics officer. (SMF ¶ 68; PSMF ¶ 68.) Finally, the officer who took charge of the investigation in October 1997, Mark Beckner, also had limited homicide experience. (SMF ¶ 69; PSMF ¶ 69.)
Many mistakes were made during the course of the investigation. For example, a series of events compromised the crime scene, as discussed supra. Moreover, the police did not request to interview defendants separately on the day that JonBenet's body was found. (SMF ¶ 57; PSMF ¶ 57.) They did, however, question defendants jointly at various times on December 26, 27 and 28, and, soon thereafter, began to focus the investigation on defendants as the main subjects. (SMF ¶¶ 54, 71-72; PSMF ¶ 54, 71-72.) Pursuant to the FBI's suggestion that the Boulder Police publicly name defendants as subjects and apply intense media pressure to them so that they would confess to the crime, the police released many statements that implied defendants were guilty and were not cooperating with police. (SMF ¶¶ 74-75; PSMF ¶¶ 74-75.) In addition to official police releases, many individual officers also released information about the investigation without official authorization, some of which disclosures were highly confidential and potentially undermined the investigation.
During the course of the investigation, defendants signed over one hundred releases for information requested by the police, and provided all evidence and information requested by the police. (SMF ¶ 61; PSMF 61.) Upon request, within days after the murder and in the months that followed, defendants provided the police with historical handwriting samples and supervised written exemplars. (SMF ¶ 55; PSMF ¶ 55.) Defendants also gave hair, including pubic hair, and DNA samples to the police. (SMF ¶ 56, 60; PSMF ¶ 56, 60.) Despite widespread criticism that defendants failed to cooperate in the murder investigation, defendants note that they agreed, on at least three occasions, to be interviewed separately by representatives of the police or the Boulder County District Attorney's Office. (SMF ¶ 62; PSMF ¶ 62.)
In March 1997, Andrew Louis Smit was hired by the Boulder District Attorney's Office due to his extensive experience as a homicide investigator for thirty years. (SMF ¶ 94; PSMF ¶ 94.) Detective Smit
In June 1998, the Boulder police presented their evidence to the Boulder County District Attorney. (SMF 84; PSMF ¶ 84.) At some point in the summer of 1998, then-District Attorney Alex Hunter decided to convene a grand jury to investigate the murder of JonBenet and possibly bring charges. (SMF ¶ 86; PSMF ¶ 86.) On October 13, 1999, the grand jury was discharged by District Attorney Hunter with no indictment issued. (SMF ¶ 91; PSMF ¶ 91.) The District Attorney, and all other prosecutors involved in the proceedings, believed at that time that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against any person, including defendants, in connection with the murder. (SMF ¶¶ 91-92; PSMF ¶¶ 91-92.)
IV. Publicity Surrounding the Crime
Beginning on the morning of December 26, 1996, there has been and continues to be considerable public interest and media attention devoted to JonBenet's murder and the subsequent investigation into the crime. As discussed supra, the Boulder Police Department utilized the press, in an attempt to "smoke out" JonBenet's killer. In addition to this intentional use of the press, a number of leaks of confidential information, at various stages of the murder investigation, served to hamper the ability of the Boulder Police Department to conduct an effective investigation into crime. Finally, many people have attempted to capitalize on and profit from the widespread interest in JonBenet's murder. Indeed, plaintiff has attempted to gain a book deal and the chief theorist behind plaintiffs claims, former Detective Steve Thomas, also wrote a book. Likewise, the defendants have written a book about the murder, entitled The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth. (SMF ¶ 8.)
Defendants assert that they wrote their book in response to media speculation that they were involved in their child's murder and to correct inaccurate media reports. Plaintiff, in contrast, asserts that defendants' Book was authored in an attempt to "escape prosecution for the murder of Jon-Benet." (PSMF ¶ 8.) The Book sets forth defendants' account of the investigation of their daughter's murder and their view that the police did not adequately investigate several leads. (SMF ¶ 9; PSMF ¶ 9.) In the Book, defendants promote the theory that an unknown intruder entered their home and murdered their daughter. (SMF ¶ 2, 11) Defendants state they believed when writing the Book, and believe now, that the statements contained in the Book represent either truthful fact or sincere opinion. (SMF ¶ 9.)
Defendants' Book names five people, including plaintiff, whom defendants contend
Another lead mentioned is Gary Oliva, a transient with a history of child molestation, who was seen in the Boulder area in December 1996, picked up his mail one block from the Ramsey home, and was present at a memorial service for JonBenet. (SMF ¶ 282; PSMF ¶ 282.)
Another purported lead was Bill McReynolds, who portrayed Santa Claus at a Christmas Party at defendants' home in December 1996, whose wife had written a play about a young girl held captive in a basement, whose daughter had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted twenty-two years to the day before JonBenet's death, and who had written a card to JonBenet that was found in her trash can after the murder. (SMF ¶ 283; PSMF ¶ 283.)
Finally, another lead identified by Detective Smit was plaintiff, who in his estimation presented too many "unanswered questions." (SMF ¶ 284; PSMF ¶ 284.) Defendants identified all of these men, and others, in their book as possible suspects. (SMF ¶ 328; PSMF ¶ 328; The Book at 165-168, 199-201, 215-216, & 310-312.) In addition, the Book discusses, but does not name, eight other leads. (SMF ¶ 328; PSMF ¶ 328.) In Chapter 33 of the Book, defendants present a detailed profile of the smurderer. The profile offered is that of a male ex-convict, aged 25-35, who is familiar with and owns a stun gun. (SMF ¶ 329; PSMF ¶ 329.) The passage at issue from the Ramsey book, that is the heart of the present libel claim, criticizes the Boulder Police Department for failing to investigate these possible leads in the murder investigation. (SMF ¶ 180; PSMF ¶ 180.)
In addition to authoring the Book, defendants have appeared on various news programs. (PSDMF ¶¶ 105-118.) On March 24, 2000, defendants appeared on NBC's "Today Show," a television broadcast, in a segment taped in February 2000 with Katie Couric. (SMF ¶ 330; PSMF ¶ 330.) It is from this broadcast that plaintiffs slander claim arises. Defendants did not have any influence or control over the visuals displayed when they spoke, were not told that a photograph of plaintiff would be displayed during their appearance on the show, and were not told before taping what specific questions would be posed to them during the taping. (SMF ¶ 331; PSMF ¶ 331.) In other words, defendants had no editorial control over how the interview was edited or presented. (SMF ¶ 332; PSMF ¶ 332.) During the interview, Mr. Ramsey stated that:
(Transcript of Interview attach, as Tab 38 to Defs.' Ex., Vol. 1; J. Ramsey Aff. ¶ 19.) He claims that these statements were not in relation to plaintiff, but rather to Michael Helgoth,
For his part, plaintiff too has appeared before the media and profited from discussing and critiquing the murder investigation. (SMF ¶ 292; PSMF ¶ 292.) In 1997, plaintiff voluntarily gave an interview to Hard Copy, a syndicated television program, in which he claimed to be a suspect in the murder of JonBenet and for which he received $5,000 compensation. (SMF ¶ 293; PSMF ¶ 293.) In addition, plaintiff discussed his status as a suspect with the news tabloid, The National Enquirer, and received $250 for that interview. (SMF ¶ 294; PSMF ¶ 294.) In addition, plaintiff provided information to Lawrence Schiller for use in his 1998 book about the murder, entitled Perfect Murder, Perfect Town. In several passages, attributed to plaintiff, the latter discusses his arrest and interrogation by the Boulder Police Department. (SMF ¶¶ 295-296; PSMF ¶¶ 295-296.)
Plaintiff also attempted to capitalize on his association with the murder investigation through a book deal. On plaintiffs computer was a letter dated March 2, 1999, addressed to David Granger of Esquire magazine, discussing his status as a suspect in the murder and his related media and print appearances. (SMF ¶ 298; PSMF ¶ 298.) The letter requests a "generous fee" in return for plaintiff authoring a book about JonBenet's murder. (SMF ¶ 298; PSMF ¶ 298.)
Plaintiffs counsel Darnay Hoffman also became interested in the case early in the murder investigation and has contributed to the continued media interest through the filing of various lawsuits. In March 1997, Mr. Hoffman sent a letter to the Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter suggesting that Charles Lindbergh had killed his child in a hoax kidnapping and that one of the defendants had killed JonBenet in a similar type hoax. (SMF ¶ 339; PSMF ¶ 339.) In May 1997, Mr. Hoffman sent Mr. Hunter a second letter in which Mr. Hoffman theorized that Mrs. Ramsey killed her daughter, through a blow to the head, in a fit of rage caused by unhappiness, depression and marital problems. (SMF ¶ 340; PSMF ¶ 340.) The Boulder authorities did not take Mr. Hoffman's unsubstantiated theories seriously and considered much of his submissions to be "off the wall." (SMF ¶ 341; PSMF ¶ 341.)
In the fall of 1997 Mr. Hoffman began to solicit the involvement of various handwriting experts, claiming that, although prior expert reports given to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation showed Mrs. Ramsey to be at the "very lowest end of the spectrum, i.e. there is little or no basis for a match," it would be a "career move" for an expert to submit an affidavit for use by Mr. Hoffman. (SMF ¶ 343; PSMF ¶ 343.) Indeed, forensic document examiners were eager to jump into the high-profile investigation. In July 1997, Ms. Wong, now plaintiffs expert, had originally contacted defendants' attorneys and offered to analyze the Ransom Note and point out weaknesses in analysis by "Government handwriting experts." (SMF ¶ 342; PSMF ¶ 342.) Defendants declined such an offer.
On November 14, 1997, Mr. Hoffman filed a Complaint in the District Court for Boulder County, Colorado, on his own behalf as a plaintiff, asking that Mr. Hunter be forced to explain why he had not filed murder charges against Mrs. Ramsey. (SMF ¶ 344; PSMF ¶ 344.) Attached to the Complaint was the affidavit of Ms. Wong who, notwithstanding her earlier overture to the Ramseys, now claimed that Mrs. Ramsey had written the Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 345; PSMF ¶ 345.) Mr. Hoffman's complaint was dismissed on January 20, 1998. (SMF ¶ 346; PSMF ¶ 346.)
In March 2000, Mr. Hoffman again filed suit, again on his own behalf as plaintiff, against defendants in the Supreme Court of New York, County of New York, for $25,000,000 in damages based on the allegation that he was defamed by certain passages in the defendants' Book. (SMF ¶ 353; PSMF ¶ 353.) On April 21, 2000, Mr. Hoffman dismissed this complaint. (SMF ¶ 354; PSMF ¶ 354.)
In addition, Mr. Hoffman has served as a long time source to news tabloids for information about the investigation. (See, e.g., John Latta, "JonBenet's Dad Was Framedby Mom, say insiders,") NATIONAL EXAMINER, June 24, 1997 (insider referred to is Mr. Hoffman); Art Dworkin, "Jon-Benet's Dad Lied Under Oath to Hide Death Fight," NATIONAL EXAMINER dated March 7, 2000 (quoting Mr. Hoffman's comments about Mr. Ramsey's deposition testimony); Art Dworkin, "Five Years Later JonBenet Parents Are Doing Little To Find Killer," NATIONAL EXAMINER, December 11, 2001 (quoting Mr. Hoffman as stating, among other things, that defendants "JUST DON'T CARE" about their daughter's murder investigation.)
V. History of This Case
Plaintiff filed suit on May 11, 2000, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. He amended his Complaint on June 15, 2000 to add claims for libel and slander stemming from the Book and from comments by Mr. Ramsey on NBC's "Today" show, respectively. Mr. Wolf has stipulated that he is a limited public figure. (See Stipulation .) On February 9, 2001, the Court denied defendants' motion to dismiss. (See Order dated February 12, 2002.)
After discovery ended, plaintiff withdrew his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (See Stipulation of Dismissal .) The libel and slander claims still remain. On August 30, 2002, defendants filed the present motion for summary judgment .
I. Motion in Limine to Exclude Testimony
Defendants have filed a motion in limine to exclude the expert testimony of Cina Wong and Gideon Epstein , two witnesses proffered by plaintiff as "forensic document examiners." For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that defendants' motion should be
Federal Rule of Evidence 702 is quite liberal in the scope of evidence it deems properly admissible. The Rule states in relevant part that:
Fed.R.Evid. 702. The trial court must, however, act as a gatekeeper and determine, at the outset, whether the purported expert is qualified to express a reliable opinion based on sufficient facts or data and the application of accepted methodologies. Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 152, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (1999). See also Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., 509 U.S. 579, 592-93, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993).
In performing this gate-keeping responsibility, the Supreme Court has articulated four factors the court may consider:
Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 149-50, 119 S.Ct. 1167 (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-94, 113 S.Ct. 2786) (internal quotations marks and alterations omitted). These various factors are not an exhaustive list of all possible ways to assess reliability, nor must all of the factors be applied in every case. Id. at 150, 119 S.Ct. 1167. Dependdent
B. Background on Handwriting Analysis
Defendants argue that the opinions of plaintiffs' expert should not be admitted because the field of forensic document examination is not sufficiently reliable. In their Brief in Support of the Motion in Limine, defendants argue that the "science" of handwriting analysis does not meet the reliability standards of Rule 702: as the theoretical bases underlying this science have never been tested; error rates are neither known nor measured; and the field lacks both controlling standards and meaningful peer review. (Br. In Supp. Of Mot. In Limine  at 2.)
In examining defendants' contention, the Court notes that both parties agree that the field of forensic document examination is premised on the assumption that no two persons' handwriting is exactly alike; instead, each person has a unique handwriting pattern that allows the person to be identified through a comparison of proper handwriting specimens.
Forensic document examiners are generally trained through a "guild-type" apprenticeship process, in which supervised trainees study methods of document examination described by the field's leading texts. (Defs.' Mot. In Limine  at 3; Epstein Dep. at 40-41.) The only recognized organization for accrediting forensic document examiners is the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners ("ABFDE"). (Defs.' Mot. In Limine ; Epstein Dep. At 36.) There are common terms used within the field. For example, the unidentified writing is generally referred to as the "questioned document." (SMF ¶ 214; PSMF ¶ 214.) Writings prepared by a person in the past in the normal course of business are referred to in the field as "historical writings" or "course-of-business" writings. (SMF ¶ 215; PSMF ¶ 215.) In contrast, writings prepared on request for the purpose of comparison are referred to as "request exemplars." (SMF ¶ 216; PSMF ¶ 216.) Ideally, a handwriting expert should consult the original unidentified writing, not a
The recognized method for forensic document analysis occurs in several important steps. First, the expert determines whether a questioned document contains a sufficient amount of writing and enough individual characteristics to permit identification. After determining that the questioned document is identifiable, the expert examines the submitted handwriting specimens in the same manner. If both the questioned document and the specimens contain sufficient identifiable characteristics, then the expert compares those characteristics often through the use of a chart. (SMF ¶¶ 230-232; PSMF ¶¶ 230-232.) For example, the slant of the writing, the shapes of the letters, the letter connections, the height of the letters, the spacing between letters, the spacing between words, the "I" dots and "t" crosses are aspects of handwriting that can be used for comparison. Next, the expert weighs the evidence, considering both the similarities and the differences of handwriting, and determines whether or not there is a match. (SMF ¶ 232; PSMF ¶ 232.) Ignoring differences between characteristics is a frequent cause of error in handwriting identification. (SMF ¶ 233; PSMF ¶ 233.) Similarly, dismissing differences as merely the product of intentional disguise is another common mistake made in the analysis. (SMF ¶ 235; PSMF ¶ 235.) In addition, an examiner should not know the identity of the comparators and should consult more than one comparator to increase the reliability of his or her analysis. (SMF ¶¶ 256-57 & 268-72; PSMF ¶ 256-57 & 268-72.)
In addition to a recognized methodology, there are some accepted standards that should be employed when engaging in handwriting analysis. One standard is that the genuineness of the historical writing or request exemplar must be verified; that is, the forensic document examiner should ensure the purported author is the true and historical writing is indeed the author. (SMF ¶ 223; PSMF ¶ 223.) In addition, any differences between the questioned document and the comparison writings are generally considered to be more significant than are similarities, when attempting to determine whether someone is the author of a questioned document. (SMF ¶ 224; PSMF ¶ 224.) The reason that similarity, by itself, is not dispositive is because most people are taught handwriting as children from the same or similar "notebook styles" and, therefore, many people will share common handwriting characteristics called "class characteristics." (Defs.' Mot. In Limine  at 4; Albert S. Osborn, QUESTIONED DOCUMENTS 226 (2nd Ed. Patterson Smith, 1973), attach, to Defs.' Evid. In Supp., Vol. I, at Tab 16.) The existence of even one consistent fundamental difference between writings, however, has historically been viewed as a legitimate basis for concluding that two writings were not produced by the same person.
C. Background and Qualifications of Plaintiffs Experts
Although the Court has concluded that a proper expert may assist a jury in a comparison of handwriting between a known and an unknown piece of writing, that conclusion does not mean that a person can be deemed as an expert in forensic document examination merely by announcing himself as such. Indeed, defendants assert that plaintiffs experts, in particular Ms. Wong, lack the necessary credentials to qualify as experts. (Defs.' Br. In Supp. Of Mot. In Limine  at 5-7; Reply Br. In Supp. Of Mot. In Limine  at 2.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court agrees with defendants that Wong is not qualified to provide expert testimony. The Court, however, finds that Epstein is qualified to present certain expert testimony in this case.
Mr. Epstein is a forensic document examiner who served as the past president of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, is a registered member of the ABFDE, and has authored several authoritative texts in the field. (PSDMF  ¶ 1; Epstein Aff. ¶¶ 12-15.) He has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska, a Masters of Forensic Science from Antioch School of Law, successfully completed a two-year resident training program in the forensic science of Questioned Document Examination at the U.S. Army Crime Laboratory
In stark contrast to Epstein, Wong has never taken a certification exam, completed an accreditation course in document examination, been an apprentice to an ABFDE certified document examiner, or worked in a crime lab. (Wong Dep. at 87-112.) She does, however, claim nearly ten years of experience in the field. (Pl's Br. In Opp. To Defs.' Mot. In Limine  at 9.) She, however, is not a member of the ABFDE, the sole recognized organization for accreditation of qualified forensic document examiners. Although she is the former vice president of the National Association of Document Examiners ("NADE"), (PSDMF 12), defendants note that this organization does not meet ABFDE certification requirements, has no permanent office and has no membership requirements other than the payment of a fee. (Defs.' Mot. In Limine  at 6.) Wong, herself, admits that NADE does not require specialized training or experience for its certification. (Wong Dep. at 87-89.) Finally, even Epstein, plaintiffs other expert, testified that Wong is not qualified to render opinions in this case. (Epstein Dep. at 32-33.) Accordingly, the Court concludes Ms. Wong is not qualified to provide reliable handwriting analysis in this case. Therefore, the Court
D. The Reliability of Epstein's Proffered Testimony.
Although the Court has concluded, as a general matter, that Epstein is qualified to testify as a forensic documents examiner, it must still determine the parameters of his expertise with regard to the opinions he seeks to offer. Specifically, Epstein claims that he can state, with absolute certainty, that Mrs. Ramsey is the author of the Ransom Note. The Court, as gatekeeper, must therefore examine the methodology that he puts forward in support of such a categorical conclusion. First, Epstein states that he used the standard methodology of forensic document examiners when assessing the Ransom Note and Mrs. Ramsey's writing samples. (Epstein Aff. ¶ 25.) He initially determined that he had a sufficient amount of handwriting by Mrs. Ramsey to allow an examination. (Id. ¶ 26.) He then proceeded to examine the submitted materials for similarities and dissimilarities. (Id.) After conducting the examination, he then determined that
Defendants move to exclude the testimony of Epstein because they assert that the methodology he employed does not meet the accepted standards of handwriting analysts. In particular, defendants argue that Epstein's opinions are not reliable because he did not consult the original Ransom Note, original handwriting exemplars of Mrs. Ramsey, nor original courseof-business writings of Mrs. Ramsey. (Defs.' Mot. In Limine  at 8.) Epstein acknowledges the importance of consulting original documents in an article he coauthored, appearing in the 1971 edition of Identification News, a publication of the International Association for Identification. (SMF ¶ 220; PSMF ¶ 220.) In this text, Epstein writes that:
(SMF ¶ 129; Hans M. Gideon & Gideon Epstein, "The Obtaining of Proper Handwriting Exemplars and Standards," emphasis in original, Ex. A to Jordan Aff., Tab. 23.) The parties also agree that mechanical copying may distort the writings or eliminate subtleties, such as pen lifts, hesitations, pressure or "feathering." (SMF ¶ 222; PSMF ¶ 222.) Notwithstanding his previous warnings about the use of copies, Epstein testified in this case that copies produced today are of a higher quality than those generated at the time the article was produced and, therefore, some of the concerns expressed in the article have been mitigated. He still agreed, however, that it is optimum to review the original. (PSMF ¶ 219.)
It is undisputed that a number of subtle and critical handprinting features observable on examination of the original Ransom Note cannot be observed from an examination of a machine copy of the Ransom Note. (SMF ¶ 245; PSMF ¶ 245.) Plaintiffs experts, however, were not afforded the opportunity to consult the original Ransom Note, original exemplars, or the course-of-business writings of Mrs. Ramsey. Defendants refused to provide original exemplars, despite plaintiffs discovery requests.
In short, the Court is satisfied as to Epstein's ability to testify concerning perceived similarities and differences in Mrs. Ramsey's known handwriting and the Ransom Note. Any criticism of Epstein's analysis by defendants goes to the weight of
Nowhere in the submissions provided by plaintiffs is there any attempt to show by what methodology Mr. Epstein reaches a conclusion of absolute certainty that a given person is, in fact, the writer of a questioned document.
The underlying notion behind Daubert, and all good science, is that a given premise or principle should be capable of being tested to determine whether the principle is, in fact, sound. Thus, if Epstein indicated, for example, that whenever a writer of known material has x number of similarities, there is a given probability that the writer wrote the note—and if this methodology had been tested by reliable means in the past—then Epstein would have shown reliability in the methodology that he used to reach a determination of the likelihood of his conclusion. As it is, however, Epstein's explanation for his conclusion seems to be little more than "Trust me; I'm an expert." Daubert case law has indicated that such an assertion, which seems to be based more on intuition than on scientific reasoning, is insufficient.
Accordingly, the Court concludes that while Epstein can properly assist the trier of fact by pointing out marked differences and unusual similarities between Mrs. Ramsey's writing and the Ransom Note, he has not demonstrated a methodology whereby he can draw a conclusion, to an absolute certainty, that a given writer
II. Summary Judgment Motion
As noted, plaintiffs complaint asserts both a libel and slander claim, two subcategories of defamation. See Nida v. Echols, 31 F.Supp.2d 1358, 1375 n. 33 (N.D.Ga. 1998). Plaintiff asserts that defendants' mention of him as a suspect in the Book is a knowing falsehood because defendants knew that Mrs. Ramsey actually committed the murder and that Mr. Ramsey helped her cover it up. In short, plaintiffs success in this litigation requires him to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that defendants killed their child.
Defendants have moved for summary judgment . In addition, defendants have moved" for oral argument on defendants' motion for summary judgment . Because the parties have provided thorough briefs, the Court finds it unnecessary to hold an oral argument. Accordingly, defendants' Motion for Oral Argument  is
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is not properly viewed as a device that the trial court may, in its discretion, implement in lieu of a trial on the merits. Instead, Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates the entry of summary judgment against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of every element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In such a situation, there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact, as a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Id. at 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548.
A fact is material when it is identified as such by the controlling substantive law. Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Id. at 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The nonmovant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts ... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no `genuine issue for trial.' " Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87,106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (citations omitted). An issue is not genuine if it is unsupported by evidence, or if it is created by evidence that is "merely colorable" or is "not significantly probative." Anderson, All U.S. at 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Thus, to survive a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific evidence of every element material to that party's case so as to create a genuine issue for trial.
B. Libel Claim
Georgia law defines libel as "a false and malicious defamation of another, expressed in print, writing, pictures, or signs, tending to injure the reputation of the person and expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule." O.C.G.A. § 51-5-l(a). Truth is an absolute defense under Georgia law: if plaintiff cannot prove falsity, the libel and slander claim must fail. O.C.G.A. § 51-5-6; Cox Enterprises, Inc. v. Thrasher, 264 Ga. 235, 237, 442 S.E.2d 740, 742 (1994). In addition, "[t]o be actionable, the libel must be "published"—i.e., communicated to a third party." Mullinax v. Miller, 242 Ga.App. 811, 814, 531 S.E.2d 390, 392 (2000). There is no dispute over the fact that the allegedly defamatory comments in this case, contained in defendants' book, were indeed published. The parties do disagree as to whether the statements were libelous and, if so, whether defendants acted with malice.
1. Were the statements libelous?
As a general rale, the question of whether a published statement is defamatory is a question for the jury. Mead v. True Citizen, Inc., 203 Ga.App. 361, 362, 417 S.E.2d 16, 17 (1992) (citations omitted). Nevertheless, when faced with a summary
The passage at issue in the book emanated from a conversation, in August 1997, between plaintiffs then girlfriend, Jacqueline Dilson, and Pam Paugh, sister of Mrs. Ramsey. Specifically, Dilson contacted Paugh and told her that she believed plaintiff Wolf to be involved in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. (SMF ¶ 317; PSMF ¶ 317.) Based on that initial conversation, and subsequent information acquired by defendants, the following was said about plaintiff in the Book:
(SMF ¶ 318; PSMF 318; John and Patsy Ramsey, The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth at 204-05 (2000) hereinafter "The Death of Innocence".)
The book further stated:
(SMF ¶ 223; PSMF ¶ 223; The Death of Innocence at 329.)
The Court will assume that the statements made in the Book do defame plaintiff Wolf. The statements indicate that defendants and others considered plaintiff to be a potential suspect in the brutal murder of a child and also suggest that there was some basis for the suspicion. "Libel per se consists of a charge that one is guilty of a crime, dishonesty or immorality." Barber v. Perdue, 194 Ga.App. 287, 288, 390 S.E.2d 234, 235 (1989). If false, such statements could reasonably be held by a juror to constitute libel per se because the statements are "injurious on their face—without the aid of extrinsic proof." See also Zarach v. Atlanta Claims Ass'n, 231 Ga.App. 685, 688, 500 S.E.2d 1, 5 (1998) ("Defamatory words which are actionable per se are those which are recognized as injurious on thenface—without the aid of extrinsic proof.")
A conclusion that the statements were libelous is not inconsistent with the recent holding by the Eleventh Circuit in another defamation action concerning the Ramsey case, also filed by plaintiffs counsel, Darnay Hoffman. In that action, Hoffman-Pugh v. Ramsey, 312 F.3d 1222 (11th Cir. 2002), plaintiff Linda Hoffman-Pugh, also claimed that the defendants had libeled her in their book by creating a false impression that she was or had been a suspect in the murder of JonBenet. The Eleventh Circuit, however, affirmed the district court's decision that the defendants' book, when considered as a whole, does not defame Ms. Hoffman-Pugh as a matter of law. Id. The court concluded that the book, when fairly read, did not convey that Ms. Hoffman-Pugh was a suspect in the murder.
Key to the Eleventh Circuit's analysis is the defendants' failure to ever state that Ms. Hoffman-Pugh, defendants' housekeeper, was considered to be a murder suspect by them or by the police. Instead, the Book states that, before they knew their daughter's fate, at a time when they believed her to have been kidnapped and were running through their minds people who knew JonBenet, the defendants never believed that Ms. Hoffman-Pugh would hurt their daughter even if she had kidnapped her because she was a "good,
In the instant case, however, plaintiff does fit the profile of the murderer set out in the book and was discussed in detail as a viable suspect in the murder investigation. Indeed, in recognition of these substantial differences between the Hoffman-Pugh case and the case pending before this Court, the Eleventh Circuit noted that the statements regarding plaintiff were "not the situation before us." Id. at 1227 n. 3. In short, the "sting" or "gist" of the passages in the Book suggest that plaintiff is a viable suspect in the murder. Such an accusation is defamatory.
Of course, that a given statement is defamatory does not mean that the defamation is actionable. As noted supra and infra, truth is a defense to a libel action, as is the expression of an honestly held opinion. Certainly, many of the statements about plaintiff Wolf, recounted above, are true. That is, Ms. Dilson did recount the described information about what she believed to be plaintiffs suspicious behavior. Likewise, plaintiff was questioned by the police concerning JonBenet's murder.
This Court likewise concludes that, as to this narrow theory of defamation articulated by plaintiff, the statements at issue are defamatory.
2. Were the statements made with malice?
In addition to proving that the published statements were indeed defamatory, plaintiff bears the additional burden of establishing that defendants acted with "actual malice." Plaintiff bears this addition burden because he has stipulated that, for all purposes of this litigation, he is a "limited purpose public figure." (Stipulation .) "A limited purpose public figure is `an individual [who] voluntarily injects himself or is drawn into a particular public controversy and thereby becomes a public figure for a limited range of issues.'" Little v. Breland, 93 F.3d 755, 757 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 351, 94 S.Ct. 2997, 41 L.Ed.2d 789 (1974)). Actual malice, in the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254,
Plaintiff must prove falsity by clear and convincing evidence. Straw v. Chase Revel, Inc., 813 F.2d 356, 361 n. 6 (11th Cir. 1987); Firestone v. Time, Inc., 460 F.2d 712, 721-23 (5th Cir.1972) (Bell, J. specially concurring).
Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, 497 U.S. 261, 285 n. 11, 110 S.Ct. 2841, 111 L.Ed.2d 224 (1990) (internal quote omitted). In other words, the clear and convincing evidence "placets] in the ultimate factfinder an abiding conviction that the truth of [the] factual contentions are `highly probable'." Colorado v. New Mexico, 467 U.S. 310, 316, 104 S.Ct. 2433, 81 L.Ed.2d 247 (1984) (citing C. McCorick, LAW OF EVIDENCE § 230, p. 679 (1954)).
Plaintiff attempts to prove actual malice by what he asserts is clear and convincing evidence that defendants actually killed JonBenet and, therefore, made the above libelous statements that plaintiff was a viable suspect, knowing that such statements were untrue. As this is defendants' motion for summary judgment, all factual inferences must be drawn in favor of plaintiff. Further, as there is little factual dispute between the parties as to the evidence that exists, the Court will review each party's theory of the crime and the evidence proffered in support of the respective theory, indicating when an actual dispute of fact exists between the parties. The Court will compare the evidence in order to determine whether the record supplies clear and convincing support for the proposition that defendants are responsible for the murder of their child. If the record does not contain such evidence, defendants' motion for summary judgment must be granted. If the record does contain sufficient information from which a reasonable factfinder could impute criminal culpability to defendants, however, the Court must deny defendants' motion for summary judgment.
3. Evidence in Support of the Intruder Theory
Defendants assert that the evidence establishes that Mrs. Ramsey did not murder her daughter JonBenet. (Defs.' Br. In Supp. Of Summ. J.  at 18.) Specifically, defendants note that:
(Defs.' Br. In Supp. Of Summ. J.  at 19-20; see also SMF ¶¶ 85, 91-93; PSMF ¶¶ 185; 91-93.) Defendants contend that evidence gathered in the investigation of JonBenet's death instead shows that she was abducted, sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered by an intruder. (Id.)
There is likewise undisputed evidence of a disturbance in this window-well area: specifically the leaves and white styrofoam packing peanuts that had pooled in the window-well appeared to have been cleared from, or brushed to either side of, the center window's sill in the well. (SMF ¶ 132; PSMF ¶ 132.) In addition, this center window had a broken pane and was found open on the morning of December 26, with a suitcase and a glass shard from the window pane underneath it. (SMF ¶ 135; PSMF ¶ 135.)
Certain undisputed evidence of how defendants' house was found on the morning of December 26 is also consistent with the intruder theory of the crime. For example, the lights were on in the basement, when first searched at approximately 6:15 a.m. that day. (SMF ¶ 129; PSMF ¶ 129.) In addition, the butler's door to the kitchen
Defendants further aver that the undisputed physical evidence is not consistent with an "accidental killing followed by staging," (Defs.' Br. In Supp. Of Summ. J. ), but instead is more consistent with a theory that the intruder subdued JonBenet in her bedroom and then took her to the basement, where she was sexually assaulted and subsequently murdered. First, JonBenet's body was found bound with complicated and sophisticated bondage devices, namely neatly-made rope slipknots and a garrotte, designed to give control to the user. (Defs.' Br. In Supp. Of Summ. J.  at 19; SMF ¶¶ 161, 163-164; PSMF ¶¶ 161, 163-164.) The parties agree that such devices necessarily were made by someone with expertise in bondage. (SMF ¶¶ 162, 169; PSMF ¶¶ 162, 169.) While it is certainly possible that defendants
Further, the end portion of the paintbrush and the cord used to construct the garrote were never found in the house, or elsewhere, nor was the latter sourced to defendants.
The above evidence arguably suggests that whoever tied up JonBenet used some items brought from outside the home to do so. In addition, other fiber evidence supports an inference that some of these items from outside the home were, at one time, in the second floor area near Jon-Benet's bedroom. That is, fibers consistent with those of the cord used to make the slip knots and garrote were found on JonBenet's bed. (SMF ¶ 168; PSMF ¶ 168.) This evidence is inconsistent with plaintiffs proposed timeline of events. That is, plaintiff has hypothesized that Mrs. Ramsey, in a moment of anger, had
Likewise, other items not belonging on the second floor were found there on the day after the murder, thereby suggesting that some preparation or activity was ongoing in that area on the night of the murder. Specifically, a rope was found inside a brown paper sack in the guest bedroom on the second floor; defendants have indicated that neither of these items belonged to them. (SMF ¶ 181; PSMF ¶ 181.) Regardless of its ownership, there is no explanation why a bag containing a rope would be in the guest bedroom. Further, small pieces of the material on this brown sack were found in the "vacuuming" of JonBenet's bed and in the body bag that was used to transport her body (SMF ¶ 181; PSMF ¶ 181), thereby suggesting that either the bag had been near JonBenet or that someone who had touched the bag had also touched JonBenet.
Plaintiff, of course, argues that any evidence suggesting an intruder was staged by defendants. Even assuming that all the above evidence could have been staged, however, defendants point to other evidence for which a theory of contrivance by them seems either impossible or highly implausible. First, defendants note the existence of several recently-made unidentified shoeprints containing a "HI-TEC" brand mark were found in the basement imprinted in mold growing on the basement floor. (SMF ¶¶ 151-152; PSMF ¶¶ 151-152.) Defendants do not own any "HI-TEC" brand shoes and none of their shoes match the shoeprint marks. (SMF ¶ 153; PSMF ¶ 153.) Likewise, another similar partial shoeprint was found near where JonBenet's body was found. (SMF ¶ 155; PSMF ¶ 155.) The owner of the "HI-TEC" shoe that made the footprints at the murder scene has never been identified. (SMF ¶ 154, 155; PSMF ¶ 154, 155.) In addition, on the wine-cellar door, there is a palmprint that does not match either of defendants' palmprints. (SMF ¶ 56; PSMF ¶ 156.) The individual to whom it belongs has never been identified. (SMF ¶ 156; PSMF ¶ 156.)
Of course, the existence of these shoeprints and palmprint is not dispositive, as they could have been made prior to the time of the murder, but they are clearly consistent with an argument that an intruder was in the basement area. The defendants also offer other undisputed evidence that they contend clearly establishes that another male was near JonBenet at the time she was murdered. Specifically, defendants note that unidentified male DNA—which does not match that of any Ramsey—was found under JonBenet's fingernails.
Finally, defendants note the existence of evidence that they contend establishes, almost to a certainty, that JonBenet was taken from her bedroom and held against her will by an intruder. Specifically, defendants point to evidence from the autopsy report indicating that a stun gun was used on JonBenet. (SMF ¶ 140.) Because it is logical to assume that JonBenet would struggle against an attacker she did not already know, the use of a stun gun helps to explain why no evidence of a struggle was found in any of the bedrooms in defendants' home. (SMF ¶ 143; PSMF ¶ 143.) Further, defendants state that they have never owned nor operated a stun gun. (SMF K 142.) In addition, no stun gun was ever located at defendants' home nor is there any evidence that defendants have ever owned such a gun. Further, the parties agree that a stun gun could be used and not heard in other rooms of a house. (SMF 1f 141; PSMF ¶ 140-141.)
Plaintiff does not agree that a stun gun was used, however, arguing that the evidence establishing the same is inconclusive. Yet, although plaintiff disputes that a stun gun was used in the murder, he has failed to produce any evidence to suggest what caused the burn like marks on Jon-Benet. Specifically, defendants have presented photographs of JonBenet taken Christmas morning that clearly reveal the absence of any marks on her neck. (See Defs.' Ex. 33 attach. To Summ. J. Mot. .) Yet, the autopsy report clearly shows reddish, burn-type marks on Jon-Benet's neck and back. (See Autopsy Photos attach, as Defs.' Ex. 27-30 to Smit. Dep.) Moreover, defendants have presented the testimony of Dr. Michael Doberson, a forensic pathologist who examined the Boulder Coroner's autopsy report and autopsy photos, and who concluded that the injuries to "the right side of the face as well as on the lower left back are patterned injuries most consistent with the application of a stun gun." (Report of Michael Doberson, M.D., Ph.D. at 5(A) attach, as Ex. 3 to Defs.' Ex. Vol. I, Part A.) Defendants' evidence that a stun gun was used, then, stands unrebutted. In other words, plaintiff has failed to produce evidence that creates a material dispute of fact on this point or that offers an alternative explanation for the origin of these marks, other than a stun gun. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the undisputed facts indicate that a stun gun was used in the commission of the murder.
In addition, the Court notes that defendants have provided compelling testimony from homicide detective Andrew Louis Smit, who is widely regarded as an expert investigator, in support of the intruder theory. (SMF ¶ 168; PSMF ¶ 168.) Detective Smit has reviewed the evidence and prepared a comprehensive CD presentation that summarizes this evidence and offers the inferences that can be logically drawn from that evidence. From a review of this evidence, Detective Smit believes that JonBenet was subdued by a stun gun, taken from her bedroom by an unknown intruder, and then sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered by this intruder in the basement of the defendants' home in Boulder, Colorado. (SMF ¶ 3; PSMF ¶ 3.) Detective
Although most of Detective Smit's conclusions derive from his analysis of physical evidence, he has also testified that he has been unable to find any motive for defendants to murder their daughter. (Smit. Dep. at 146.) Absent from the defendants' family history is any evidence of criminal conduct, sexual abuse, drug or alcohol abuse or violent behavior. (SMF ¶¶ 117-119; PSMF ¶ 117-11 there was no evidence that JonBenet's bed was wet on the night of her murder. (Smit Dep. at 145.)
In contrast, Detective Smit opined that there were several factors that could have motivated an intruder to commit this horrific crime. First, defendants were prominent in the community and had thrown several large events at their home, thereby providing a large number of people the opportunity to learn the house's floor plan. Second, Mr. Ramsey received considerable attention due to the financial success of his company. In fact, news articles were published that detailed the company's financial success and mentioned Mr. Ramsey in great detail. (SMF ¶ 121 PSMF ¶ 121.) In the weeks leading up to the murder, Detective Smit notes that defendants had a large party at their home in which they entertained hundreds of people from their church. Also, Mr. Ramsey had spoken at his company's Christmas party and praised the employees for passing the one billion dollar mark in sales. (Smit Dep. at 148.) Third, Detective Smit states that JonBenet was a "pedophile's dream come true." (SMF ¶ 122; PSMF ¶ 122.) Jon-Benet received considerable public attention as "Little Miss Colorado" and through several beauty pageants in which she participated. (SMF ¶ 121; PSMF ¶ 121.) On December 6, 1996, three weeks before the murder, she was in the Lights of December Parade, an event thousands of people attended. (Smit. Dep. at 147.) In addition, on December 25, 1996, while playing at the home of a neighborhood friend, Jon-Benet told her friend's mother that "Santa Claus" was going to pay her a "special" visit after Christmas and that it was a secret. (SMF ¶ 124; PSMF ¶ 124.) The person who may have said this to JonBenet has never been identified. (SMF ¶ 125; PSMF ¶ 125.)
Based on the above undisputed evidence, defendants contend they are entitled to
4. Evidence in Support of Plaintiffs Theory
Plaintiff admits that he has no direct evidence that Mrs. Ramsey committed the murder. (Pl's Br. In Opp. To Summ. J.  at 9, 11 & 21-22.) Rather, to show malice, he relies solely on circumstantial evidence to prove that Mrs. Ramsey murdered her daughter and Mr. Ramsey assisted in the subsequent coverup. (Id.) A plaintiff in a public figure libel case may successfully prove actual malice by circumstantial evidence. Harte-Hanks Communications v. Connaughton, 491 U.S. 657, 668, 109 S.Ct. 2678, 105 L.Ed.2d 562 (1989); Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 160, 99 S.Ct. 1635, 60 L.Ed.2d 115 (1979). See also Hunt v. Liberty Lobby, 720 F.2d 631, 643 (11th Cir. 1983) ("Absent admission by defendant that he knew his material was false or that he doubted its truth, a public figure in prosecuting a libel action must rely upon circumstantial evidence to prove his case.")
Yet, other than a contention that Mrs. Ramsey authorized the Ransom Note, the circumstantial evidence proffered in support of plaintiffs claim is based almost exclusively on the theories espoused by former Detective Steve Thomas in his book.
As the arguments in his brief opposing defendants' summary judgment motion are largely restatements of the arguments he makes in support of his efforts to have the testimony of his forensic document examiners admitted, plaintiff implicitly acknowledges the dearth of physical evidence supporting his argument. (See id. at 3, 5-6, 9-10, 13-19.) In short, the only hard evidence, as opposed to theories, that plaintiff proffers to support his accusation that Mrs. Ramsey murdered her child is evidence indicating that she wrote the Ransom Note. The Court agrees with plaintiff that, if plaintiff adduced clear and convincing evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that Mrs. Ramsey wrote the Ransom Note, this evidence would then be sufficient to create a jury issue as to whether Mrs. Ramsey killed her child. In other words, if Mrs. Ramsey wrote the Ransom Note, this Court could conclude, as could a reasonable jury, that she was involved in the murder of her child.
The question then is whether plaintiff has proffered such clear and convincing evidence. This Court has earlier ruled that plaintiffs' expert, Mr. Epstein, is qualified to compare Mrs. Ramsey's handwriting with that contained in the Ransom Note for the purposes of pointing out similarities in the two. The Court, however, has concluded that Epstein cannot properly testify that he is certain that Mrs. Ramsey was the author of the Note. For purposes of assessing whether plaintiff has met its burden of proof, however, the Court will analyze the evidence, assuming that Epstein could testify as to his proffered conclusion, as well as assuming that he could testify only as to similarities between both the Ransom Note and Mrs. Ramsey's known handwriting samples.
Analysis of the Two Theories
a. Consideration of Epstein's Testimony That There Were Similarities Between Mrs. Ramsey's Handwriting and the Ransom Note
As discussed supra, much of the physical evidence is consistent with an inference that an intruder came into the Ramsey's home and murdered their child. Specifically, there was a broken window in the basement and the window well for that window showed signs that someone may have entered the house through it. Indeed, some of the foliage and debris from that window well was found in the room where JonBenet's body was found. Further, the evidence of stun gun injuries to JonBenet suggests that she was taken by someone who wanted to keep her quiet as he removed her from her bedroom; a parent would not need a stun gun to remove a child from her bedroom. Conversely, the use of a stun gun by the killer is totally at odds with plaintiffs theory that the violence against JonBenet began by Mrs. Ramsey accidentally hit her daughter's head on the bathtub or bathroom floor. In addition, the presence of a bag containing a rope in a guest bedroom near JonBenet's arguably supports a notion that some premeditation and preparation attended the crime.
Other physical evidence is consistent with a theory that an intruder was in the home. There was a recently made shoeprint, in a moldy area in the basement, that matched no shoes owned by the Ramseys. There was also a palmprint on the
The method by which JonBenet was killed also suggests it more likely that she was killed by an intruder than by her mother. JonBenet was strangled through the use of a garotte and bondage device that was sophisticated and employed the use of a series of tightly and neatly made knots that would appear to have taken some time to make. There is no evidence that the defendants had the skill to create such a device. Moreover, it is plaintiffs theory that, after thinking she had accidentally killed her daughter, Mrs. Ramsey worked quickly, before the household awoke, to set up a staged kidnapping scenario. The creation of this bondage device would appear to have required more time and calm than one would think Mrs. Ramsey could have mustered under the circumstances.
Plaintiff has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the Ramseys murdered their child; they have no burden to prove that they did not commit the crime. The above recited evidence falls well short of the requisite proof that the defendants killed their child. Plaintiff argues, however, that the Ransom Note provides this necessary proof.
At first blush, and even without an appraisal of the handwriting, the Ransom Note seems to support plaintiffs argument that the kidnapping was a hoax set up by someone in the house. It is an extremely long and detailed note of over three pages. Moreover, an examination of the notepad on which the note was written indicates that the writer had attempted some earlier drafts of the note. In addition, the writer had apparently not even brought his own materials, but instead had used a note pad and felt marker from the Ramsey's home. These facts suggest that the killer had not come prepared with a ransom note already written, as one would expect a diligent kidnapper to do. Further, one does not assume that an intruder, intent on beating a hasty retreat, would take the time to practice writing a note or to write a long, detailed note. These assumptions then might suggest that someone in the house contrived the note.
Defendants have argued, however, that it is just as plausible that the killer had been hiding away in the home for many hours, waiting for the household to go to sleep, before he sprung into action. That waiting time would have allowed him the leisure to write a note. Further, the length of time that it took to practice and write the note could also conceivably undermine a notion that Mrs. Ramsey wrote it. Under plaintiffs scenario, Mrs. Ramsey was working quickly to create a staged crime scene before her husband and son awoke. Given those time constraints, and presumably a desire to provide as little handwriting as possible for purposes of future analysis, she arguably would not have written such a long note. Accordingly, the existence of this peculiar, long Ransom Note does not necessarily favor, as the killer, either an intruder or Mrs. Ramsey.
Thus, the only conceivable piece of evidence by which plaintiff can hope to carry his burden of proof is evidence that indicates that Mrs. Ramsey actually wrote the note. Factoring into the analysis the testimony of Mr. Epstein that there are similarities between Mrs. Ramsey's handwriting and the Ransom Note does not,
b. Consideration of Epstein's Testimony That He Was Absolutely Certain that Mrs. Ramsey Wrote the Ransom Note
The Court has earlier indicated its conclusion that there is insufficient reliability to Mr. Epstein's methodology to permit him to state his conclusion that Mrs. Ramsey wrote the Ransom Note. As noted supra, Epstein opined that he is "100 percent certain" that Patsy Ramsey wrote the Ransom Note and that "there is absolutely no doubt" that she is the author. Supra at 1347. The Court believes its conclusion on the admissibility of this evidence to be correct. Further, as the identify of the writer is virtually the only evidence that plaintiff can offer to shoulder its burden, then the question of the identity of the writer is synonymous with the underlying question in this litigation: did Mrs. Ramsey kill her child. Nevertheless, even if the Court were to permit Epstein to testify as to the above conclusion, the Court does not believe his testimony would provide the "clear and convincing evidence" necessary for a reasonable finder of fact to conclude that Mrs. Ramsey wrote the note.
As stated before, "clear and convincing" evidence requires "a clear conviction, without hesitancy of the truth." Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health, 497 U.S. 261, 285 n. 11, 110 S.Ct. 2841, 111 L.Ed.2d 224 (1990). The parties have agreed that handwriting analysis is, at best, an inexact and subjective tool used to provide probative, but not clear and convincing evidence, of a questioned document's author. (SMF ¶ 212; PSMF f 212.) Nonetheless, the Court will assume that there could be cases where the handwriting in question is either so obviously not the handwriting of a particular individual or so close a match to that person's penmanship, that a finder of fact could comfortably rely on the handwriting, alone, to reach a particular conclusion. Indeed, well before the days of forensic handwriting experts, courts have allowed lay witnesses to testify that they recognized the handwriting of particular documents as the handwriting of someone with whose penmanship they were familiar. Further, appropriate testimony of forensic experts can greatly assist the jury in its undertaking.
That said, while there may be cases in which handwriting examination, alone, can be dispositive, this case is not one of that group. Here, as noted, several factors necessarily reduce the weight a reasonable juror could give to Epstein's conclusion. First, Epstein did not consult the original Ransom Note nor obtain original exemplars from Mrs. Ramsey. Second, as noted by defendants, Epstein deviated from the very methodology that he has previously asserted was necessary to make a reasoned judgment. Most significant to the Court in its determination that Epstein's conclusion cannot carry the day for plaintiff, however, is the unanimity of opinion among six other experts that Mrs. Ramsey cannot be determined to have been the writer of the Note. As noted supra, the Boulder Police Department and District Attorney's Office had consulted six other handwriting experts, all of whom reviewed the original Ransom Note and exemplars. Supra at 1334-1335. Although two of these experts were hired by defendants, four were independent experts hired by the police. None of these six experts were able to identify Mrs. Ramsey as the author of the Ransom Note. Instead, their consensus was that she "probably
Given the contrary opinion of six other experts, whose ability to examine the documents was necessarily superior to Epstein's, and given Epstein's failure to explain the methodology by which he can make absolute pronouncements concerning the authorship of a document, this Court does not believe that a reasonable jury could conclude that Mrs. Ramsey was the author of the Ransom Note, solely on the basis of Epstein's professed opinion to that effect. In reaching this conclusion, the Court is aware that it is not permitted to make credibility judgments in ruling on summary judgment motions. For example, were there six eyewitnesses on one side of a question and one eyewitness on the other side, the Court would not take from a jury the factual question on which these witnesses were testifying. With regard to Epstein's testimony, however, the Court is not attempting to assess credibility. Mr. Epstein may sincerely believe that Mrs. Ramsey wrote the Note and the jury may well credit his sincerity. Nevertheless, no matter how earnest Epstein may be, the fact remains that he has not explained his basis for reaching absolute certainty in his conclusion and, accordingly, the weight and impact of his testimony would necessarily be less than the weight of the contrary testimony of six other experts.
In sum, plaintiff has failed to prove that Mrs. Ramsey wrote the Ransom Note and has thereby necessarily failed to prove that she murdered her daughter. Moreover, the weight of the evidence is more consistent with a theory that an intruder murdered JonBenet than it is with a theory that Mrs. Ramsey did so. For that reason, plaintiff has failed to establish that when defendants wrote the Book, they "in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the publication." St. Amant v. Thompson, 390 U.S. 727, 731, 88 S.Ct. 1323, 20 L.Ed.2d 262 (1968); Hemenway v. Blanchard, 163 Ga.App. 668, 671-72, 294 S.E.2d 603, 606 (1982). Accordingly, the Court
In addition to his claims for libel, plaintiff asserts that several statements made by defendants to the press fit within one of the categories of slander per se recognized by Georgia law: imputing to another a crime punishable by law. O.C.G.A. § 51-5^4(a). In particular, plaintiff refers to defendants' March 24, 2000 appearance on the Today Show with host Katie Couric. During the course of the broadcast, the following conversation occurred:
(Transcript of Today Show, March
As with the libelous statements discussed above, while not textbook, these statements are arguably slanderous. With the slander claim, however, the factual predicate for plaintiffs malice argument is weaker than with the libel claim. Specifically, although the emphasized quote suggests Mr. Ramsey's belief that an unnamed suspect might be the killer—which was a malicious statement, if Mr. Ramsey knew that his wife was the killer—plaintiff has not demonstrated that defendant John Ramsey intended to refer to plaintiff when he made that statement. Moreover, even though the photograph of plaintiff appeared on the screen when defendant made the statement, it is undisputed that defendant had no control over NBC's editing decisions.
Nevertheless, even had defendant intended to refer to plaintiff, the statements are still not malicious, for the reasons discussed supra, with regard to the libel claim. Accordingly, the Court
For the foregoing reasons, the Court
Plaintiff also theorizes, based on the presence of the unidentified matter in JonBenet's stomach that, contrary to Mrs. Ramsey's testimony, she was up during the night and fed JonBenet the pineapple. (PSDMF ¶45.) There is no evidence in the record that indicates when JonBenet ate the pineapple. Defendants state they did not feed JonBenet pineapple upon returning home from the White's party that evening. (SMF ¶ 13.) Mr. White does not recall if pineapple was served at his dinner party on December 25, 1996. (F. White eDep. at 202.)
(Ransom Letter, attach, as pl.'s Ex. 16 to J. Ramsey Dep.)
The Court will consider Ms. Hoffman-Pugh's testimony. The Court notes, however, that although plaintiff presents such evidence in support of his theory that Mrs. Ramsey was depressed and that her depression contributed to her state of mind on the night of December 25, such evidence, if accepted as true, cuts against plaintiff's theory that Mr. Ramsey assisted his wife in the "cover-up" of JonBenet's murder. In other words, if the marriage was shaky, it arguably seems less likely that the innocent spouse would help the guilty spouse cover up her murder of their child.
Admittedly, it is not unprecedented for parents to kill their children, sometimes even brutally. Yet, plaintiff's theory of the motivation for the crime—that Mrs. Ramsey acciden tally hit JonBenet's head on a hard object, thought she was dead, and then tried to stage a hoax kidnapping—seems at odds with his belief that although Mrs. Ramsey later became aware that JonBenet was alive, she nonetheless proceeded to garotte, torture, and sexually assault her child. If Mrs. Ramsey had accidentally hit her child's head, one would think that, upon becoming aware that the child was still alive, the mother would have been just as likely to call an ambulance, as to commit a depraved torture/murder of the child. Nevertheless, as any theory behind the motivation for Mrs. Ramsey to murder her child is just that—a theory—the Court has not factored any of these suppositions into its legal analysis of the evidence in the case.
Plaintiff further contends that Mr. Ramsey's admission that he avoided investigating any of the facts concerning forensic evidence is also evidence of malice. (Pl's Br. In Opp. To Defs.' Summ. J. Mot.  at 22.) Mr. Ramsey did state that he had seen evidence concerning plaintiff's possible association with the case and received summaries of the Boulder authorities' handwriting evidence, which concluded that Mrs. Ramsey probably did not write the Ransom Note. (J. Ramsey Dep. at 12, 62 & 73-74.) He also asserts that he had no reason to doubt any of this information. (Id. at 73-74.) As a matter of law, he is entitled to rely on this information. See New York Times Co. v. Connor, 365 F.2d 567, 576 (5th Cir. 1966) (defendant entitled to rely on single source even if source one-sided). See also McFarlane v. Sheridan Square Press, Inc., 91 F.3d 1501, 1510 (D.C.Cir.1996) (stating there is no independent duty to corroborate information, if no reason to doubt truthfulness.)