“The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey” – What they missed

This show utilizes a common debate technique of switcheroo over and over.

First of all, casting a doubt on a proof does not equal disproving the theory. For instance, yes, the DNA on the underwear could have come from the factory. But saying that does not eliminate the possibility it could have come from the killer. All the show did was to take away the power of that piece of evidence to be conclusive on its own.

Secondly, it wants you to believe in the dichotomy between the family member and the basement window. The actual dichotomy is the family member and the intruder/non-family-member. Disproving the basement window theory through cobwebs does not disprove the intruder theory. They use the same technique with the flashlight – As pointed out in the show (then ignored), the flashlight matching the skull damage does not exclude other possibilities. And again with the “spot” of blood.

Thirdly, another very popular technique – disguising an opinion / speculation as fact simply by listing the credentials of the person saying it. JonBenet stealing a piece of pinapple and running away, and Burke chases her and hits her in the heat of the moment – that’s the weakest of the theories I’ve heard. The autopsy found fibres in her stomach to have been consumed hours before death. Even if you didn’t trust the autopsy, a 6-year-old with tiny teeth chewing on these big blocks of pinapples – it takes a while to shred it into fibres and an additional few seconds to get to the stomach. Another example is the taser bit – a taser does not inflict a far more severe damage to a smaller person the way poison would.

Some things that the show missed:

  • Did they search the house for Patsy’s writing – letters, notes, etc. for the misspelling “bussiness”? If she were using the misspelling as a disguise, she would have done it more than once. I believe “bussiness” is an accidental misspelling.
  • What are the chances they didn’t fix the broken window is Colorado where the temperature easily drops to 22F in the winter?
  • Jon Ramsey is often smiling through his media announcements. Not a smile of relief. It’s an arrogant, victorious smile.
  • Nothing about the DNA found under the fingernail?
  • DNA test of the ransom note? Patsy’s DNA would be on the note. But only the writer’s DNA would be on every line of the note as they drag their palm across while writing the note.

All in all, they did a good job of creating “reasonable doubt” but did by no means prove Burke did it. In fact, they added nothing to the theory that Burke did it.

Anyone who’s studying debating technique should gain a lot by watching this show. Some techniques used here are (excuse me for not knowing the actual terms for these techniques – if you know the terms, please post in comments)

  • setting out a false dichotomy (window vs family member, not intruder vs family member).
  • Using a person’s credentials to make his speculation appear like a legitimate theory. (“JonBenet must have stolen pinapples, and Burke hit her in the heat of the moment” – no evidence supporting this, and it contradicts the autopsy)
  • Equaling casting doubt on a piece of evidence with disproving the theory supported by the piece of evidence. (“Brand-new piece of clothing could have DNA. Therefore, no intruder.”)



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