CBS just landed in some very hot water because of their docu-series The Case of JonBenet Ramsey. The four hour documentary series, which aired on the network in September, is the reason behind a massive $750 million lawsuit that has been filed against CBS and series producer Critical Content. The suit was filed by the brother of JonBenet Ramsey, Burke Ramsey, who states in the suit that CBS and Critical Content were trying to ensure good ratings for the series by pointing the finger at him as the killer of his younger sister.
According to Variety, the suit also names as defendants seven people who were featured in the show as either students of the case or criminal experts. A. James Kolar, who wrote a book about the case that was heavily cited during the series, is named as a defendant, as well as Jim Clemente, Laura Richards, Henry Lee, James Fitzgerald, Stanley Burke and Werner Spitz. The Case of JonBenet Ramsey used new experts to examine the evidence with technology that wasn't available at the original time of the crime.
Burke Ramsey's lawsuit states that producers of The Case of JonBenet Ramsey willfully ignored all of the evidence that points to Ramsey's innocence in the case and that the accusations made against him in the series were "negligently published and was published with actual knowledge of falsity and/or a reckless disregard of the truth." The key in proving defamation and libel cases lies in proving that the information put forth was either known to be false, or in disregard of what's known to be true.
JonBenet Ramsey was found dead at the family home in Boulder, Colorado on December 26, 1996, and the case of the murdered 6-year-old caught the attention of the nation, and the world, as investigators tried to figure out what happened to the young beauty queen. Despite the intense media and police scrutiny over the case, no one has ever been charged with her murder. Burke Ramsey and his parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were officially cleared of the murder in 2008, based on DNA evidence, but officials are now saying that that move was premature and the case has been reopened by the district attorney.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages of $500 million and compensatory damages of $250 million. The complaint was filed in Michigan's Wayne County state court by Atlanta-based attorney Lin Wood. Wood has represented the Ramsey family for many years in civil and criminal claims related to JonBenet's murder.
The anniversary of JonBenet's death brought the case back into the media spotlight this fall, with a TV movie being produced on the subject and Burke Ramsey breaking his silence on the difficult topic by agreeing to a series of interviews with Dr. Phil. Even though he was willing to be interviewed about the crime for the first time, it's clear that he was not happy about what was shown on The Case of JonBenet Ramsey. Time will tell if a court agrees with his assertion that the series defamed him.