Burke Ramsey Defamation Case

In September 2016, CBS partnered with Critical Content LLC to release a 20 year anniversary, two-part, 4 hour documentary on the unsolved Jon Benet Ramsey murder case. Burke Ramsey, brother of the deceased Jon Benet has recently filed a lawsuit against CBS and Critical Content for defamation, claiming that his reputation was severely damaged by the documentary (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016). Ramsey states that the documentary falsely points to him as the killer even though law enforcement and DNA testing have cleared him on multiple occasions (1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2008) (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016). The defendants named in the case are: CBS, Critical Content LLC, Jim Clemente, Laura Richards, A. James Kolar, James R. Fitzgerald, Stanley B. Burke, Werner U. Spitz, and Henry C. Lee (also referred to as Pseudo-Experts) (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016).

Ramsey is suing the defendants in the state of Michigan on three counts (defamation, conspiracy to defame, and joint venture (CBS and Critical Content) for no less than $250,000,000 in compensatory damages and no less than $500,000,000 in punitive damages (designed to punish the defendants and prevent this from happening again) (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016). It is important to note that there have been prior accusations against Burke Ramsey that all resulted in settled lawsuits (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016).

The lawsuit states that there is no clear evidence against Burke that exists and the documentary was based on a book called Foreign Faction written by on of the defendants and that the experts knew from the beginning that the documentary would be based on the book. “From the outset of the production of the Documentary, the Pseudo-Experts knew that the Documentary would be scripted from Kolar’s self-published book and was never intended to be an independent reinvestigation of the murder”(Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 19). The lawsuit also claims that the Pseudo-Experts knew the whole time that the documentary would lead viewers to believe that Burke Ramsey killed his sister and that their reputations and titles would make the documentary seem legitimate to viewers regardless of the conclusions drawn. “From the outset, Defendants understood and agreed that the Documentary would be intentionally produced and structured to support the accusation that Burke killed JonBenét before Defendants ever commenced the claimed “complete reinvestigation.”” ( Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 18) and that they “all knowingly agreed to appear in the Documentary as actors and allow CBS and Critical Content to use their professional reputations and credentials to legitimize the false and defamatory accusation that Burke killed JonBenét” (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 19).

According to the lawsuit, Burke Ramsey approached CBS and the other defendants before suing them. “After the Documentary was broadcast, Burke promptly demanded that Defendants retract and correct the Documentary, including the false and defamatory conclusion, gist, and implication that Burke killed JonBenét. Burke further described and demanded retraction of various specific false and defamatory statements, as well as other statements the Documentary used to support the false and defamatory gist that Burke killed JonBenét” (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 28). CBS did not retract or correct the documentary so Burke filed the lawsuit.

This is a pending lawsuit and there are no settlements or rulings at this time.

Sources: Ramsey v. CBS Corporation, Critical Content LLC, im Clemente, Laura Richards, A. James Kolar, James R. Fitzgerald, Stanley B. Burke, Werner U. Spitz, and Henry C. Lee, 2016 WL 7491505 (Mich.Cir.Ct.)

 

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