State to pay for GJ
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State to cover all grand jury costs

[b]By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer[/b]




Gov. Roy Romer's promise this week to assign special deputy district attorneys to the JonBenét Ramsey case isn't the only "free" help Boulder prosecutors will receive in their quest to solve the nearly 20-month-old slaying.
The bill for the grand jury — perhaps the most powerful tool at investigators' disposal — won't be footed by the Boulder County District Attorney's Office.
"It all comes out of the state of Colorado's budget," said Bob Bernard, 20th Judicial District court administrator, "all the expenses for jury fees, expert witness fees, regular witness fees, travel lodging and whatever other miscellaneous fees may come up."
District Attorney Alex Hunter and his staff spent Thursday continuing their preparations for the grand jury investigation into the Dec. 26, 1996, slaying of 6-year-old JonBenét.
As for determining who will be joining Hunter's staff as special assistants, those "consultations and conversations are under way," spokeswoman Suzanne Laurion said.
In keeping with Colorado law, the DA's office also remains quiet on the issue of where and when the grand jury will meet.
But Bernard disclosed that the secret proceedings may be held right down the hall from the district attorney's offices.
"They want to use the Justice Center for a host of obvious reasons," Bernard said. "But we've not made any decision on that."
In the past, Bernard has said the Boulder County Justice Center, at 6th and Canyon, would be unavailable during the day because of heavy court dockets. Grand juries, though, often meet at night or on weekends to accommodate jurors.
Romer announced Wednesday that Hunter will take the highly publicized Ramsey murder case to the county's standing grand jury.
Reacting to a Boulder police detective's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, the governor also had been pondering — and decided against — the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Police have no suspects and have made no arrests in the beating and strangulation death of JonBenét. Her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, remain under suspicion, although they maintain their innocence.
The grand jury's power lies in its ability to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony. Nine of 12 grand jurors can vote for an indictment — or a "true bill" — based on probable cause.
But some experts still don't think the case will be solved by a grand jury investigation.
University of Denver law Professor Frank Jamison postulated, "The grand jury will come back with no true bill and the police can mark the case solved because they know who did it and the DA's office can mark the case as solved because the grand jury failed to indict."
Former FBI profiler Gregg McCrary said that an investigation into the murder isn't enough — the investigation itself must be investigated.
"I think it would be helpful to do that in this case because there are so many facets to this that the truth just needs to be ferreted out," McCrary said.
Funds to pay for what could be a long, slow grand jury inquest will come out of the state's judicial division, which has a 1998 budget of $17.5 million, Bernard said.
But, Bernard said, "whatever the DA gives us bills for, we've got to pay." And if the 20th district's chunk of that $17.5 million isn't enough, he said, "we'll have to transfer money form other portions of the budget."
The 12 grand jurors themselves will be paid $50 a day, after the third day they meet.
The special assistants Romer authorized Wednesday also won't be paid for by Boulder County. They will be loaned from another district attorney's office, likely one of the four metro-area offices already involved in the Ramsey investigation in advisory roles.
According to Boulder County budget figures, Hunter's office had spent $252,610 in 1997 and 1998 on the Ramsey investigation, as of mid-July.


August 14, 1998
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