Jon Benet, conviction and Good News

I don’t write about the substance of my work very often, but I’ve been thinking about something lately, for what will become obvious reasons:

Mike Tracey, the CU Professor who has been all over the news about the whole JonBenet Ramsey arrest, was my MA and PhD advisor… and is one of my favorite people. He’s smart and charismatic and always supported me in his own special way. He’s also intensely committed to what he believes is important and right. Another PhD student/colleague of mine, and another one of my favorite men on the planet, Denny Wilkins, once told me that Professor Tracey had given him an extra assignment to do outside of class… something he said he thought was important for success in academia, in journalism, in life. He told him to write down things he believed in… five or ten things; I can’t remember which. It’s a good exercise, and one Professor Tracey lives by.

I can tell you without reservation that Professor Tracey believes that people who are innocent should be found innocent in a court of law and people who are guilty should be found guilty in a court of law, and that the media doesn’t, can’t and shouldn’t condemn or condone criminal people and/or actions. The man has made it his life’s work, at least in recent years, to understand and talk about how public opinion is formed, how “common knowledge” comes to be that way.

You know, we don’t know what happened the night Nicole Simpson died, or what happened to Lacey Peterson or all the horrid details of what was done to JonBenet Ramsey in the basement of that house on Christmas ten years ago. That’s important to remember… and how quickly we forget as we read the paper and jump to conclusions, or watch tv news and are quick to condemn.

No matter what happens with John Mark Karr, whether he committed that murder or not, I am proud to know Professor Tracey, and proud that he has had the conviction and committment to devote so much of his time and energy in recent years to ensuring that the image of the Ramseys, that the truth around that case, is revealed. The costs to him, personally and professionally, have been incredible. A lot of people think he’s more than slightly off his rocker.

Even if John Mark Karr’s confession is totally bogus, at least it is coming out clearly for the first time that there is DNA evidence of an intruder and a sexual assault. The family did not commit that crime and the authorities in Boulder have known that almost since the crime was committed. What happened to that family should never have happened. In so many ways the crime aganst them was as much one perpetrated by the mass media as it was by whomever killed their little girl that night.

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