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|Wolf vs Ramsey Civil Case 1:00-CV-1187-JEC
Carnes Order March 31, 2003 (Page 01 thru 10)
SMF - Statement of Material Fact
PSMF - Plaintiff's Statement of Material Fact
PSDMF - Plaintiff's Statement Disputing Material Fact
Dep - Deposition
Def's - Defendants/Defense
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
ROBERT CHRISTIAN WOLF,
JOHN BENNET RAMSEY and
PATRICIA PAUGH RAMSEY,
CIVIL ACTION NO 1:00-CV-1187-JEC
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  ,1 The Court has reviewed the record and the arguments of the parties and, for the reasons set out below, concludes that defendants' motion for summary judgment  should be GRANTED; defendants' motion to exclude the testimony of Cina Wong and Gideon Epstein  should be GRANTED as to Ms. Wong and GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as to Mr. Epstein; and defendants' motion for oral argument  should be DENIED.
1 The Court has addressed, by separate Order, movant Steven Thomas's motion for a protective order ; movant City of Boulder's motion for oral argument ; and movant City of Boulder's motion for a protective order .
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 defendants, 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 "Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Statement of Material Facts" (PSMF 67 ) , 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 (1986); McCabe v. Sharrett, 12 F.3d 1558, 1560 (11th Cir. 1994); Reynolds v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 989 F.2d 465, 469 (11 th Cir. 1993). In addition, the Court has reviewed plaintiff's separate statements of disputed material facts [88 ] ("PSDMF"), which consist, for the most part, of a restatement of theories espoused by former Boulder Police Detective Steven Thomas 2, (PSDMF 44-75) , and of a lengthy recounting of statements previously made by defendants, accompanied by editorial comments suggesting such statements to be untruthful, but without an explanation or evidence for such an assessment. (PSDMF 103 117, 120-249, 250-261.) 3 When the Court could discern a material factual dispute from this pleading, the Court has drawn all
2 Steven Thomas is a former Boulder Police Detective who was assigned, from January 1997 through June 1998, to investigate JonBenet's murder. He has co-authored a book entitled JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation, published in 2000. He professes to believe that Mrs. Ramsey wrote the ransom note found at the crime scene and murdered her daughter. (PSDMF 6.)
3 The actual title of plaintiff's pleading is "Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts To Which There Are no General Issues To Be Tried" . On September 30, 2002, defendants filed a "Notice of Objection" to this pleading, correctly noting that Local Rule 56.1 (B) (2) directs a respondent to file a statement of material facts about "which the respondent contends there exists a genuine issue to be tried." (See Notice of Objection  at 2.) In a response filed on October 9, 2002, plaintiff acknowledges that he mislabeled the pleading and that it properly should read "Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts to Which There Are General Issues To Be Tried." (See PI.'s Resp. To Defs.' Not. Of Objection"  at 2.)
inferences in a light most favorable to plaintiff. Accordingly, the following facts are either not disputed or are viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff.
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 5; 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 her 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 12; PSMF 12. ) Nothing out-of-the-ordinary occurred at the party and the Ramsey family appeared happy. (SMF 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 148 ; 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 makeup. (SMF I5.) Mrs. Ramsey then went down the backstairs towards the second floor, then the spiral stairs to the ground floor, where, on a step near the bottom of the stairs, she discovered a handwritten note on three sheets of paper that indicated JonBenet had been kidnapped (the "Ransom Note") . ( SMF 16.)
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, JonBenet awoke after wetting her bed 4 and upon learning of the bed-wetting, Mrs. Ramsey grew so angry that an "explosive encounter in the child's bathroom" occurred, during which tirade, Mrs. Ramsey "slammed" JonBenet's head against "a hard surface, such as the edge of the tub, inflicting a mortal head wound." (PSDMF 45, 47.) Plaintiff has provided no evidence for this particular theory. 5
4 Crime scene photos taken the following morning do not indicate that JonBenet's bed was wet or suggest that the sheets to the bed had been changed. (Defs.' Exs. 56-58 attach. To Defs.' Summ. J. Mot.) Urine stains, however, were reported to have been found on JonBenet's underwear and leggings that she was wearing when her body was discovered. (See Coroner's Report at 2.) Thus, at some point after going to bed, but before being murdered, JonBenet urinated in her clothing. The evidence does not indicate whether this occurred in her bedroom, the basement, or during the route between the two rooms.
5 Plaintiff offers evidence, primarily hand-writing analyses, that plaintiff alleges to be evidence that Mrs. Ramsey wrote the Ransom Note. The above theory is merely speculation by plaintiff as to what might have motivated Mrs. Ramsey to act so violently toward her daughter.
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. 6
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
6 Relying solely on the testimony of Mr. Thomas, who has no apparent expertise as a medical examiner, plaintiff fixes the time of death at around one a. m. "suggested by the digestion rate of pineapple found in the child's stomach." (PSDMF 47.) The coroner's report does indicate that a vegetable or fruit matter consistent with pineapple was found in JonBenet's stomach during the autopsy. (Boulder Coroner Report at 6.) The report, however, does not establish a time of death based on the digestion rate of the unidentified matter.
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 Dep. at 202.)
detecting a faint heartbeat or a sound or slight rn0vement--that although completely unconscious, JonBenet was not dead." ( PSDMF 49-50.) In Mr. Thomas's scenario then, rather than being grateful that her child was alive, Mrs. Ramsey nevertheless decided to finish the job off by fashioning a garrote from one of her paintbrushes, looping the cord around the girl's neck, and then choking JonBenet to death. (PSDMF 51-52.) Plaintiff notes that the fact JonBenet was "choked from behind" is consistent with the murder being committed by someone who knew JonBenet and did not want to look at her face as he or she killed her.
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." (PSDMF 53-54.) Indeed, the sources for the duct tape and cord used in the crime were never located, nor sourced, 7 to defendants' home. Plaintiff claims that Mrs. Ramsey next placed the Ransom Note in a place "where she would be sure to 'find' it." (PDSMF 53.)
7 The word "sourced" is used by the parties as a verb. When a sentence indicates that a particular item was not "sourced" to the Ramsey home, it means that there is no evidence that those items were ever in the Ramsey home at any time before the murder.
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 18.) 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.) 8
8 Defendants did not heed the warning in the letter that stated:
The two gentlemen watching over your daughter do not particularly like you so I advise you not to provoke them. Speaking to anyone about your situation, such as Police, F.B.I., etc, will result in your daughter being beheaded. If we catch you talking to a stray dog, she dies. If you alert
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 allover 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 acilitate the capture of his daughter's murderer. (PSDMF 57.) Mr. Ramsey asserts, however, that he never once suspected his wife to be involved in the crime. (PSDMF 254-255.) 9
authorities, she dies.
(Ransom Letter, attach. as pl.'s Ex. 16 to J. Ramsey Dep.)
9 Plaintiff seeks to introduce the testimony of Linda Hoffman-Pugh, who worked for the family as a cleaning woman for nearly fourteen months prior to JonBenet' s death, who asserts the Ramseys had a troubled marriage. (PSDMF 4.) Ms. Hoffman-Pugh states that Mr. Ramsey "berated" Mrs. Ramsey for being "a lousy homemaker and cook" shortly before the murder and that the couple "never once demonstrated any affection for each other, physical or otherwise, in front of [her]." (PSDMF 95-98.) Defendants strongly deny any such marital problems. (See, e.g., J. Ramsey Dep. at 52; see also F. White Dep. at 170 (stating he perceived no marital problems between defendants).) Defendants have objected to such testimony as inadmissible, based on a lack of foundation and general irrelevance. (Defs.' Not. Of Objection to Exhibits  at 5.) Plaintiff responds that Ms. Hoffman-Pugh's testimony is relevant on a point placed in issue by defendants through their assertion that no marital problems existed between them. (See Pl.'s Resp. To Defs.' Not. Of Objection to Exhibits  at 7.)
The Court will consider Ms. Hoffman-Pugh's testimony.
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