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Brother of JonBenet Ramsey Sues CBS for $750 Million Over TV Special

Variety logo Variety 12/29/2016 Cynthia Littleton
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The brother of JonBenet Ramsey has filed a $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS and Critical Content in connection with the four-hour documentary series “The Case of JonBenet Ramsey” that aired in September.

Burke Ramsey, 29, asserts in the complaint filed in Michigan’s Wayne County state court that CBS and series producer Critical Content sought to generate ratings by pointing the finger at him as the killer of his younger sister, who was found dead in the family’s Boulder, Colo., home on Dec. 26, 1996. The mystery of the Ramsey murder was revisited by CBS and a number of other outlets this year as the 20th anniversary of the 6-year-old’s brutal death approached.

The suit also names as defendants seven individuals who were featured in the documentary series as criminal experts or students of the case: Jim Clemente, Laura Richards, Henry Lee, A. James Kolar, James Fitzgerald, Stanley Burke and Werner Spitz. Kolar wrote a book about the case, “Foreign Faction,” that was heavily cited in the docu series.

CBS originally ordered “JonBenet” as a six-hour documentary series but cut it back to four hours at the last minute.

CBS declined to comment Wednesday on the lawsuit.

Burke Ramsey’s lawsuit argues that producers overlooked a significant range evidence that points to his innocence. Burke Ramsey and his parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were cleared of the crime by a Boulder prosecutor based on DNA evidence in 2008. But officials have now said that was premature and the district attorney has re-opened the case.

The shocking and sordid death of JonBenet made headlines around the world. Numerous investigations, by armchair sleuths and law enforcement orgs, over the years have sought to crack the case.

Burke Ramsey’s lawsuit seeks compensatory damages of $250 million and punitive damages of $500 million.

“The accusation that Burke Ramsey killed his sister was based on a compilation of lies, half-truths, manufactured information, and the intentional omission and avoidance of truthful information about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey,” the lawsuit states.

Moreover, the complaint asserts that the accusations against Burke Ramsey were “negligently published and was published with actual knowledge of falsity and/or a reckless disregard of the truth” — the key standard in defamation and libel cases.

The suit was filed by Atlanta-based attorney Lin Wood, who has long represented the Ramsey family in criminal and civil claims related to JonBenet’s murder. More than 15 years ago, Burke Ramsey’s parents sued Court TV, the New York Post and Star Magazine on his behalf for publishing similar accusations.

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