Class Notes 1/17/17

  • “Don’t write a story that you don’t want to read” (if it doesn’t grab your attention, move on)
  • “A well written in document has all the elements of a good news story written in a similar style of a news story”
  • “Many people don’t succeed in life because they don’t pay attention to details”
  • Burke interview with Dr. Phil: socially awkward, strange affect, smiling throughout, unsettling to watch, something is off, very public stage, not a coincidence that he talked to Dr. Phil (legal strategy)
  • Headline: sums up the story
  • Lead: summary lead: gets you into the story at hand
  • Context: what is he asking for, why is he claiming defamation,
  • Why is this important to the reader
  • Basics need to be there
  • Direct quotes (attributed) (the complaint, lawyers, original document that you read)


Article 1:

Headline: JonBenet Ramsey brother files lawsuit against CBS over murder miniseries

Lead: The brother of JonBenét Ramsey, the slain child beauty queen whose grisly murder captivated the nation 20 years ago, filed a defamation lawsuit on Wednesday against CBS and several others over a televised special about the mysterious death

Context: Burke Ramsey, 29, is suing the network, a production company and a host of contributors behind “The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey,” a four-hour miniseries that aired over the course of two days in September. He says the program falsely accused him of murdering his sister, who was six years old when she was brutally killed inside her family’s Colorado home; The complaint refers at one point to previous lawsuits filed in the late 1990s against tabloids and other media companies that published claims that Burke Ramsey was a suspect in the murder. The outlets settled those lawsuits with Ramsey out of court; Ramsey is seeking no less than $250 million in compensatory damages and no less than $500 million in punitive damages, according to the complaint; Other defendants include Dr. Werner Spitz, an investigator for the series who was the subject of a separate $150 million defamation lawsuit from Ramsey in October. That lawsuit, which is still pending, stemmed from a comment Spitz made in a radio interview. Spitz’s lawyer filed a motion for dismissal, arguing that the First Amendment protects such comments on a matter of public concern.

Direct Quotes: In a complaint filed in Michigan court on Wednesday, a lawyer for Burke Ramsey asserts that law enforcement has “repeatedly, publicly and unequivocally” cleared his client of any involvement in the death, and that “CBS perpetrated a fraud upon the public.”; “Since the time of the above accusations against Burke in 1998 and 1999, no member of the tabloid media or the mainstream media has ever again accused Burke of being involved in—or suspected of—JonBenét’s murder,” the complaint said. “That is, until CBS aired the Documentary.”; The complaint added: “While Defendants’ false accusations against Burke echo the accusations made against him by supermarket tabloids years ago, the key difference is that this time, the accusation was published by the most respected member of the American broadcast media, CBS.”

Article 2:

HeadlineBurke Ramsey, JonBenét’s brother, sues CBS in $750 million slander suit Lawsuit says documentary slandered JonBenét’s brother by accusing him of killing his sister

Lead: The brother of JonBenét Ramsey has filed a lawsuit seeking $750 million against CBS Corp., saying the broadcast company produced a fraudulent documentary that slandered him by accusing him of striking and killing his sister with a flashlight in 1996.

Context: Burke Ramsey’s lawsuit was filed Wednesday in 3rd Circuit Court in Wayne County, Mich., by Atlanta attorney Lin Wood on Ramsey’s behalf. It claims CBS slandered him during a prime-time, four-hour documentary Sept. 18-19.; The defendants in the case also include Critical Content LLC, a California programming studio; former FBI profilers Jim Clemente, James Fitzgerald and Stanley Burke; forensic expert Laura Richards; former Boulder district attorney’s investigator A. James Kolar; forensic scientist Dr. Werner Spitz; and celebrity pathologist Henry Lee; Ramsey, who was 9 when his sister was killed, is seeking $250 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages. Ramsey, now 29, lives in Charlevoix, Mich.; The lawsuit says Burke Ramsey is a private citizen and has never attained the status of a public figure, which is relevant in a slander claim.; After decades of silence, Burke Ramsey came forward only this year after he learned CBS was working on a documentary that identifies him as a suspect in his sister’s death. He granted one interview to Dr. Phil McGraw from the “Dr. Phil” show.; The lawsuit includes a long list of facts that dispute the theory that any member of the family was involved in the murder, including DNA from an unidentified male found under JonBenét’s fingernails and on the crotch of her underwear. Although the CBS program indicated JonBenét’s death was caused by the flashlight strike, the autopsy report said the cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation with the garrote associated with craniocerebral trauma, the lawsuit says.; The lawsuit says there were fingernail abrasions and scrapes near where the garrote was embedded in JonBenét’s neck, indicating that she was struggling with her attacker, the lawsuit says. Wood fragments from a paintbrush used to create the garrote were found in JonBenét’s vagina, it says. Her hymen was injured during the sexual assault, causing her to bleed onto her underwear.; On Oct. 6, Burke Ramsey filed a separate $150 million lawsuit in the 3rd Circuit Court in Michigan against forensic pathologist and CBS media expert Werner U. Spitz. The lawsuit cited statements Spitz made in a Sept. 19 CBS Detroit radio program that also were used in the CBS TV miniseries.

Direct Quotes: “CBS and Critical Content knowingly and intentionally published false and defamatory statements conveying that Burke killed JonBenét, engaged in a criminal coverup with his parents and lied to the police,” the lawsuit says.; “CBS perpetrated a fraud upon the public — instead of being a documentary based on a new investigation by a so-called team of experts, ‘The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey’ was a fictional crime show,” the lawsuit says.; “Defendants knew that the majority of the … theories presented in the documentary were taken from ‘Foreign Faction’ and did not, as represented to the public, result from a complete reinvestigation by new experts,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants created the illusion of a new real-time reinvestigation by using individuals with law enforcement credentials as actors to play the role of the pseudo-experts and support and act out the accusation of Kolar’s book and the basis supporting its accusation.”; Kolar’s theory that Burke Ramsey killed his sister was viewed as early as 2006 by members of Lacy’s office as “ludicrous,” “total smoke and mirrors” and “speculation based on hearsay,” the lawsuit says. His employment at the office ended shortly after his presentation of the theory in 2006, the lawsuit says.; “No evidence suggesting Burke’s involvement in JonBenét’s death has ever been discovered and, because he is innocent, does not exist,” the lawsuit says. “As far back as 1998, law enforcement authorities responsible for the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation have repeatedly, publicly and unequivocally cleared Burke Ramsey of any involvement in the death of his sister.”; The lawsuit quotes the forensic experts who appeared in the CBS documentary including Clemente as telling various newspaper reporters that the show reaches a conclusion about who killed JonBenét. Clemente was quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as saying it “explains who did what to whom and when and how.” Fitzgerald proclaimed, “we solved it,” during a promotional campaign, the lawsuit says; “There was no evidence developed prior to or during the law enforcement investigation and the grand jury investigation that in any way links Burke to the killing of his sister or that caused the Boulder PD or the Boulder DA to consider him a suspect in the investigation of her murder,” the lawsuit says.

Article 3:

Headline: JonBenét Ramsey’s Brother Sues CBS for ‘Extraordinary’ $750 Million Over Docuseries

Lead: Burke Ramsey has filed a second defamation lawsuit over a recent CBS docuseries that advanced the theory he killed his younger sister, JonBenét, more than two decades ago, PEOPLE confirms.After suing forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz in October for $150 million in damages, lawyers for Burke on Wednesday filed another civil suit — this one, naming CBS as well as Critical Content LLC, the production company behind The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, and seven experts and consultants featured in the special, which aired over two nights in mid-September.

Context: PEOPLE obtained a copy of the second suit, which seeks $250 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages.In addition to listing Spitz as a defendant, the suit filed Wednesday names retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent and criminal profiler Jim Clemente; criminal behaviorist Laura Richards; Jim Kolar, a former lead investigator in the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation; forensic linguistics expert James Fitzgerald; statement analyst Stanley Burke; and forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee.; JonBenét was found dead in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado, in December 1996. Though the Ramsey family long faced suspicion, including from police, in JonBenét’s death, they have never been charged and have always maintained their innocence.On the CBS special, the team of seven experts theorized that Burke, who was 9 at the time of his sister’s death, may have accidentally killed JonBenét.

Direct Quotes: “CBS perpetrated a fraud upon the public — instead of being a documentary based on a new investigation by a so-called team of experts, The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey was a fictional crime show based primarily on a preconceived storyline scripted in a self-published and commercially unsuccessful book, Foreign Faction, written by Defendant James Kolar and published in 2012,” the suit alleges.;

Article 4:

Headline: JonBenet Ramsey’s brother files $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS

Lead: JonBenet Ramsey’s brother, Burke, filed a $750 million lawsuit against CBS Corp. and consultants in Wayne County, Michigan, on Wednesday, the latest development in the unsolved murder of his sister.

Context: In September, CBS broadcast “The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey” a two-part documentary series. Burke alleges that the documentary suggests he killed his sister 20 years ago when he was 9-years-old.; In 2008, Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy officially cleared JonBenet’s family, including Burke, from the murder case. Lacy cited DNA evidence that pointed to an unknown male. Earlier this month, KUSA reported that new DNA testing was planned following its investigation that there was suggested faulty interpretation of previous testing.

Direct Quotes: In the 108-page defamation complaint obtained by NBC affiliate KUSA, Burke Ramsey alleges that CBS and other defendants damaged his reputation through a “false accusation that he killed his sister.”

Article 5:


Lead: JonBenet Ramsey’s brother has filed a $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS for broadcasting a docuseries that theorized he killed the child beauty queen.

Context: The television network’s The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey featured a group of investigators attempting to solve the 20-year mystery surrounding the death of JonBenet, a six-year-old beauty pageant contestant who was found dead in her home in Boulder, Colorado, in December 1996.; In October, Ramsey’s lawyers sued one of the seven investigators in the series, pathologist Dr. Werner Spitzer, after he alleged JonBenet was killed by her brother in an interview with a CBS radio station.

Direct Quotes: The lawsuit said 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.”; Writing for Newsweek in September, Ramsey’s lawyer L. Lin Wood said the docuseries was a fraudulent “lie for profits.”; “After living the past 20 years under the shadow of his sister’s murder and false accusations against his parents in periodic media frenzies, Burke will now live the remainder of his life with Google searches proclaiming, ‘CBS Proves Burke Ramsey Killed His Sister JonBenet.’ Every professional and personal interaction and relationship Burke has from now until his death will be tainted by this false accusation,” Wood wrote.



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