D E N V E R, July 5, 2001 -- A federal judge today ruled that a former housekeeper for the parents of slain child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey can reveal what she told a secret grand jury two years ago.
No indictments were ever issued in the Boulder, Colo., grand jury proceedings that ended in 1999 and neither was any report ever issued, meaning under Colorado rules that grand jury witnesses had to keep their testimony secret indefinitely.
Linda Hoffmann-Pugh, who wants to write a book about her experience working for John and Patsy Ramsey when they lived in Colorado, sued Boulder's current district attorney, Mary Keenan, arguing the state's strict secrecy rule for grand juries was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel agreed, ruling that Hoffmann-Pugh could repeat what she testified before the grand jury in 1999.
The judge said the rules were "invalid to the extent they prohibit grand jury witnesses from disclosing their own testimony after a grand jury" has completed its work. Daniel's decision opens the door for about 100 other grand jury witnesses to speak about their testimony.
Suspicion About a Swiss Army Knife
Hoffmann-Pugh has been talking with the media about her opinions on the case. The difference is that now when she describes things she believes about the case she can also say she has said the same thing in front of the grand jury.
But she may not disclose what questions she was asked or describe any reactions she may have seen from grand jurors, her New York attorney Darnay Hoffman told reporters after the today's hearing.
The Ramseys were not a party to the case, but their attorney Lin Wood said he agreed with the judge's decision. "Our preference would be for the public to know the complete truth," he said by telephone from Atlanta where the Ramseys now live.
The former housekeeper can for instance, relate how she told the grand jury that she hid a Swiss army knife that was found near JonBenet's body and that she believes only Patsy Ramsey would have known where the knife was.
Former Ramsey Supporter
The relationship between Hoffmann-Pugh and the Ramseys deteriorated after the child's body was discovered in the family's home in December, 1996.
Initially the housekeeper supported the parents, but later turned against them, presumably because Patsy Ramsey told police the housekeeper had asked her for money just before Christmas.
Hoffmann-Pugh has sued the Ramseys for references they made about her in a book they have written on the case.
Ramsey attorney Wood said today he will be asking a judge to dismiss the case.
Still Under an ‘Umbrella’
When JonBenet first disappeared it was believed she had been kidnapped for ransom after Patsy Ramsey said she had found a note in the house, asking for $118,000 for the safe return of the girl.
No arrests have been made in the case although police have said the parents remain "under an umbrella of suspicion."
The Ramseys have steadfastly maintained their innocence and have criticized police for what they characterized as botching the case.
Under U.S. federal rules and the rules of at least 35 states, witnesses are free to discuss their testimony, but Colorado continues to follow the centuries long rule of strict grand jury secrecy.