JonBenet Burning Questions

The apparent confession of John Mark Karr blows the JonBenet Ramsey case wide open.

Finding it hard to keep track of all the new developments?

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the case:

1. What's the quality of the DNA evidence from 10 years ago? Was it tainted or compromised?

According to Dean Wideman, a certified forensic consultant in San Antonio, the evidence from this case has already been collected.

Changes have occurred in DNA technology since 1996, but, Wideman says, "as long as it was stored properly and not mishandled, it won't degrade."

As long as the evidence has not been tampered with, it will be allowed in court, Wideman says. Police authorities will check the "chain of custody" documents to make sure nothing suspicious took place.

2. If it turns out Karr has fabricated his connection to the case, will there be any legal recourse against him?

Douglas McNabb of McNabb Associates, a federal criminal defense firm in Washington, D.C., says Karr would ostensibly go free and then be taken to the jurisdiction in California where he would face outstanding charges against him relating to child pornography.

However, Colorado defense attorney Dan Recht adds, "He could face some sort of misdemeanor charges to do with false reporting."

3. Will Karr's statements and admissions hold up in a United States Court? What about his Miranda rights?

Yes, they will hold up, according to Steve Louth, a defense attorney in Boulder. "Any statements he made personally can be used against him if made voluntarily," Louth says.

"Those are admissions, and they can be used against him," McNabb says.

Duke University law professor Madeline Morris says that because he was arrested by Thai officials, he would not have to have been read his Miranda rights.

As for Miranda rights, Recht adds, "It could well be that he was read his Miranda rights by the U.S. investigators there. [But] if he was not read his Miranda rights, it does not jeopardize the case."

4. One of the Thai authorities says Karr tried to correct him when he talked about the murder, saying, "It's second degree murder." What's the difference between first- and second-degree murder?

Colorado criminal defense attorney James Fahrenholtz explains the differences between first- and second-degree murder, and manslaughter.

"If it is planned, it is first degree murder," Fahrenholz says.

He quotes the Colorado statute on first-degree murder as stating "deliberation with intent to cause death ... not only intentional but also the decision to commit the act has been made after the exercise of reflection and judgment."

"In other words, it is not something that just happens, something a person has thought about and reflected," Fahrenholtz says.

He also explains that manslaughter is criminally negligent homicide, which is a Class 5 felony.

In Colorado, felonies come in six categories. The lowest category carries a penalty of imprisonment of one year to 18 months.

There are different degrees of manslaughter. When a person recklessly causes the death of another person, that is a Class 4 felony, punishable by two to six years in prison.

Criminally negligent homicide, another degree of manslaughter, is a Class 5 felony, with a penalty of one to three years in prison.

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