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Picket Fence
[Donald Foster] Donald Foster
Literature Professor
Vassar College in New York

August 1998
The Bard's Fingerprints


Published stories about/by Donald Foster
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[Page 373-374]
Page 487-488: "At the end of March (1998), Donald Foster, the Vassar linguistics expert, delivered his written report to the Boulder police. It was almost a hundred pages long and concluded that Patsy Ramsey had written the ransom note. It was key evidence, Beckner told DeMuth. He went on to explain how Foster had come to his conclusion. DeMuth pointed out that it would not be admissible in Colorado court."

" 'My guys think you're an asshole,'Beckner said to him, 'but we're going to need an asshole to fight for us.'He asked DeMuth to persuade Hofstrom and Hunter to use Foster's reportand conclusions as evidence before the grand jury. DeMuth remained neutral; he agreed only to discuss Foster's findings with his colleagues. Later that afternoon, Hunter, Hofstrom and DeMuth met. They decided to draft a letter to Beckner stating that the DA's office could not accept Foster's conclusions as evidence of Patsy Ramsey's culpability."

"In taking this hard line, it waslikely that Hunter was buying time until his grand jury expert came onboard. Only then, and with the complete case file in hand, could the DA's officedecide conclusively which pieces of the puzzle would be presented."

"Not long afterward, Hunter's staffreviewed Foster's report and the documents he had based his conclusions on. They discovered that many of the writing samples he had used had been taken from the family's computer. However,the document files from the computer had been obtained under a search warrant that didn't extend to their use for linguistic analysis. The search warrant granted the police the right to search the hard drive and floppy discs only for child pornography downloaded from the Internet - which at the time they believed was relevant to the case. They had not requested the right to search text files to use for a comparison to the ransom note."

"Hofstrom and some other deputies thought that under the circumstances, which pointed to in admissibility in court, the professor's report and conclusions should not be presented to the grand jury."


ABCNEWS 20/20 - Sunday, September 27, 1998
"What Happened to JonBenet Ramsey?"

Voice Over: Sources say the ransom note written by the alleged kidnapper is considered a key piece of evidence. Handwriting experts have ruled out John Ramsey and others close to the family. They have not excluded Patsy Ramsey, who has submitted several samples. The ransom note analysis, however, doesn't end with handwriting. The detectives enlisted the help of this man, professor Donald Foster of Vassar College.

Diane Vargus: You look at something and you figure out who wrote it, in essence.

Donald Foster: Yes, that's what I do best.

Voice Over: Foster analyzes not the handwriting but the text, the content and syntax.

Donald Foster: Use of language, grammer, source material, borrowings, political and religious opinions and anything that might enter into making a piece of writing distinctively one person's or anothers - from punctuation to spelling and so on.

Voice Over: The professor once discovered Shakespeare was the author of a centuries old manuscript. And the FBI hired him to prove ted Kaxcynski wrote the Unibomber manifesto But he is perhaps best known for proving Anonymous was really Newsweek's Joe Klein. Early in the case, Foster actually volunteered his expertese to Patsy Ramsey after reading of her extreme distress. Ironically, she never called, but the Boulder District Attorney's office did. In the Ramsey case, Foster had high marks for the detectives who brought him an impressive sampling of Patsy's writings - letters, notes, even files police retrieved from the family computer.

Donald Foster: My experience with the Boulder detectives was that they were entirely professional in their work - they were dedicated to the case.

Diane Vargus: Have you determined who wrote the ransom note?

Donald Foster: I have no comment.

Voice Over: Foster is bound by a confidentiality agreement with the Boulder Police Department, but sources tell us in his report, summerized by detectives in the June presentation of evidence, Foster identified the writer of the ransom note as Patsy Ramsey. Foster analyzed commonly used words and also found similarities between Patsy's letter format and that of the ransom note writer. The indentations and punctuation - especially the repeated use of the exclamation point. We looked back through our own archives and found two samples of Patsy's writing - this 1996 Christmas letter peppered with exclamation points and this 1978 photo with a two line note - each sentence ending in an exclamation point.


June 21, 2000 Jameson's posting:
"I thought Foster was gone in September of 1998 when his letter to Patsy was made public. That happened the same weekend he appeared on 20/20. "I went on 48 Hours I thought THAT - as short as it was - would do it."


Before thou shall judge Donald Foster, read the "Fosterama Analysis"

March 23, 2001 "Fosterama I" by "V"

March 28, 2001 "Fosterama II" by "V"

From "Fosterama II" ~ "If Jameson didn't forward the documents to Smit until the spring or summer of 1998, that would mean that she knew for a year that the investigation was relying on a "discredited expert" and didn't warn anyone in the D.A.'s office or the BPD, not even Smit."


Donald Foster's letter to Patsy Ramsey
BEFORE he saw the evidence
June 18, 1997
Page 1
June 18, 1997
Page 2
June 18, 1997
Page 3

September 7, 1998 Forbes Mazazine Online

September 27, 1998 London Sunday Times

April 19, 1999 Tribune
Scholar finds unlikely fame as language detective

The Mysteries of the Moonlighting English Professor

Sept 2001 Don Foster Has a Way With Words


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