L. Lin Wood. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)
A four-hour retrospective on the unsolved 20-year-old slaying of 6-year-old Colorado beauty princess JonBenet Ramsey is the basis of a $750 million defamation suit filed Wednesday against CBS by the victim’s surviving brother.
Atlanta libel lawyer Lin Wood sued the television network on behalf of Burke Ramsey, who was 9 years old when his sister was killed and who, according to the suit, has been “publicly and unequivocally cleared” multiple times by law enforcement authorities and two prosecutors of any role in JonBenet’s death.
But despite those repeated exonerations, CBS aired a two-part production entitled “The Case of JonBenet Ramsey” in September that, the suit claims, resurrected long discredited theories that Burke Ramsey had brutally murdered his sister. JonBenet’s body was found in the basement of the Ramsey family’s home in Boulder, Colorado, on Dec. 26, 1996.
A CBS spokesman told the Daily Report Wednesday that the network would have no comment.
The complaint filed by Wood, who has long represented the Ramsey family against allegations that they were involved in JonBenet’s death, claims that CBS billed the two-part television production as a documentary that would include new witnesses and new evidence and would ultimately reveal JonBenet’s killer. Instead, according to the suit, the production was “a fictional crime show based primarily on a preconceived story line scripted in a self-published and commercially unsuccessful book” by a former police officer.
The book’s author, James Kolar, appeared in the CBS production and is named as a defendant. Kolar worked for the Boulder district attorney’s office nearly a decade after JonBenet was killed, according to the suit, which seeks $250 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages.
Other defendants include Critical Content, a Hollywood production company that entered into a joint venture with CBS to produce the retrospective and six other investigators who, according to the suit, advanced the theory Kolar outlined in his book that Burke was the perpetrator.
Critical Content did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Kolar, now chief marshal in Telluride, Colorado, also did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
On Wednesday, Wood told the Daily Report that CBS had “defrauded the public.”
“There was no new investigation,” he said. “I have never seen a more egregious case of defamation in my 20 years. I could not believe when CBS actually broadcast that show.”