7/11/97 Chuck Green (BORG) column in Denver Post
#1
N.Y. lawyer steps in
By Chuck Green
Denver Post Columnist

July 11 - More than 1,600 miles away, a New York City attorney has fired a shot across the metaphorical bow of District Attorney Alex Hunter in the Colorado town of Boulder. It's certainly a long shot, as measured by distance. And some might say it's an even longer shot in terms of legal argument.
Lawyer Darnay Hoffman, though, believes he has launched a legal missile aimed at the heart of the investigation into the 1996 Christmas night murder of JonBenet Ramsey.
Hoffman, an attorney who describes himself as an advocate for victims' rights, has become intensely interested in the case of the 6-year-old beauty queen found bludgeoned and strangled in her wealthy family's home.
The case is not unlike another 6-year-old murder victim's, Lisa Steinberg, who died in New York 10 years ago and whose adopted father, millionaire attorney Joel Steinberg, was sentenced to prison for her death.
Hoffman, who worked on that case, says that Steinberg and his wife, Hedda Nussbaum, were arrested within hours after Lisa - found in a coma - was rushed to a hospital. And he says New York police made the arrests with less evidence than exists in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case.
Now Hoffman wants to know why Boulder police haven't arrested JonBenet's parents - a move he believes would eventually solve the case.
"In cases of domestic violence, you usually don't get a conviction based on forensics. It's usually based on a confession by someone who knows what happened," Hoffman says. In the Steinberg case, Hedda Nussbaum - after sitting in jail for a while - eventually agreed to testify against Joel Steinberg. He was convicted of voluntary first-degree manslaughter for causing Lisa's death.
Hoffman has written Hunter demanding access to the Ramsey investigative file, serving notice that he intends to sue the DA for not filing criminal charges.
Hunter's chief assistant, Bill Wise, has responded to Hoffman by telling him that "we do not accept your approach," and "we must therefore refuse your 'demand discovery.' " But by sending his letter to Hunter, the New York attorney has paved the way toward a legal challenge and court review of the Ramsey investigation if no one is arrested for murdering JonBenet.
A little-known Colorado law allows "persons who believe that a prosecuting attorney is not pursuing a case with diligence to petition the court to review the status of the case" and to order charges to be filed.
A Colorado Court of Appeals case confirmed that the law is "a mechanism created by the (legislature) to prevent abuses in connection with the prosecutorial decision." Hoffman says he is pursuing his "prefiling investigation" into Hunter's conduct with himself as the client, as a victims' rights advocate, but sources say he might eventually represent a national victims' rights organization in the case.
Technically, Hoffman's action appears premature. It's considered unlikely that a court would take his requests seriously until the Ramsey case is obviously stalled or abandoned - a status that would take many more months to become arguable.
Meanwhile, Hunter has been put on legal notice that there's a serious New York lawyer looking over his shoulder.
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