The Ramsey Case: The Law Behind the Story

ByABC News
August 17, 2006, 12:43 PM

— -- Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy said Thursday that the arrest of John Mark Karr followed months of surveillance and investigation. As authorities work to prove that Karr is the killer of JonBenet Ramsey, they'll be asking the following questions:

1. How are authorities handling extradition?

Boulder, Colo., police officials are headed to Bangkok, Thailand, where they will outline the case against Karr for Thai authorities. Once they do that, Karr will be extradited to the United States, a process that could get him back to Colorado within the next few days.

Once he arrives in the United States, Karr will be taken to Boulder.

2. How serious will the charges be against Karr?

One of the American officials now on the ground in Thailand said Karr faces charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and child sexual assault.

Karr has indicated that the first-degree murder charge is too severe. Apparently, when Karr asked police what charges he faced and they told him, he said: "No, it's second-degree -- it wasn't intentional."

There is a significant difference between first- and second-degree murder.

According to, first-degree murder is defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or "lying in wait" for the victim.

Second-degree murder is defined as either an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned or committed in a reasonable "heat of passion," or a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life.

First-degree murder is considered a more serious offense, and carries a much harsher penalty if convicted.

3. Did Karr help police by talking too much during his arrest in Thailand?

Yes, Karr may have unwittingly helped police after his arrest.

In highly publicized cases, police often hold back key pieces of information and hope that when suspects talk to them about the case, they'll discuss key evidence that no one besides the investigators and the culprit could possibly know.