'The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey': Could Her Family Face Charges? (Q&A)

The Hollywood Reporter

The case of JonBenet Ramsey has recaptured national attention because of a television special of the same name - and it's raising questions about what role, if any, her family members played in her 1996 death.

A panel of investigators consulted for the CBS special came to a disturbing conclusion: Ramsey's then 9-year-old brother Burke killed his younger sister and the siblings' parents, John and Patsy, covered it up.

The Hollywood Reporter asked Colorado attorney and legal consultant Lisa Polansky, who is featured in the show, about the legal trouble the family could be facing now if investigators reopen the case.

If Burke Ramsey was responsible for his sister's death, could he have faced charges then? 

No, he [was] a child under 10 years old and is considered under the "minimum age for criminal responsibility" in the state of Colorado. In other states the minimum age is less (7 years old in NY, CT, MD and MA; 8 years old in AZ, NV and WA; etc.), more (12 years old in GA), or the same (10 years old in AR, KS, TX and WI, etc.); and some states have no minimum age (CA, AK, etc.).

Age of responsibility means there can be no prosecution until that age for any "crime" and, therefore, he cannot be subject to criminal laws or procedures. This law has its roots in common law, entitled the "defense of infancy," and is based in current science of brain development. The child cannot be held responsible for his acts until he reaches the age of emotional, mental and intellectual maturity. The median age worldwide is 12 years old.

Could he face charges now?

No, see above.

If Burke Ramsey was responsible for his sister's death, and his parents covered it up, could John and Patsy Ramsey have faced charges then?

Yes, accessory after the fact to murder, pursuant to CRS 18-8-105 (if they can be prosecuted for that crime for an act by a child under 10) or the child abuse statute, CRS 18-6-401, which prohibits a child from being unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat to the child's life or health.

Could John Ramsey face charges now?

Probably. There is no statute of limitations on murder, but it all depends on whether or not he can be prosecuted for an "accessory" charge if their son is immune from prosecution, which I believe he can.

Should the Boulder Country District Attorney's Office reexamine the case?

Honestly, I feel as if people in Boulder are tired of hearing about the case, but if Boulder DA Stan Garnett believes he has enough evidence, he would charge the appropriate parties and pursue justice.

Read more: 'The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey': TV Review