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Presumed Guilty: An Investigation into the Jon Benet Ramsey Case, the Media, and the Culture of Pornography Hardcover – July, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
In what he acknowledges is a very speculative treatment of the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, Singular (The Rise and Rise of David Geffen, etc.) contends that the six-year-old beauty queen's parents did not murder her. He finds that JonBenet's mother, Patsy Ramsey, doesn't fit the profile of women who murder, and he further suggests that JonBenet may have been killed by a pornographer. Singular found photos of children on the Internet who were tied up the way JonBenet was bound, and he learned of a Boulder photographer who had tried to take nude pictures of another child beauty contestant and who was said to have photographed one little girl flying a kite that trailed a "white, nylonlike material" similar to the cord that had been tied around JonBenet's wrist. But Singular's riskiest conjecture involves father John Ramsey. He theorizes that John, fearing that Patsy might die of ovarian cancer before JonBenet attained national celebrity, tried, without Patsy's knowledge, to accelerate the pursuit of JonBenet's fame by having risqu? promotional photos taken of their daughter. After JonBenet was killed, Singular surmises, John wrote the ransom note to cover up his bad judgment. As far-fetched as all this sounds, Singular advances his thesis cautiously and even writes that "the future will reveal how much of it is true." Readers who can't get enough of this grizzly case will find Singular's tone and the modesty of his claims persuasive. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Veteran crime journalist Singular (Talked to Death, 1987, etc.) offers an original perspective on the sadly epochal killing of JonBenet Ramsey. Singular was in Boulder, Colo., for much of the investigation, and he methodically details its progress, acutely portraying a volatile situation. He depicts many key players, from DA Alex Hunter and various investigators to talk-radio rabble-rousers and Globe scandalmongers; he asserts that the latter parties bear great responsibility for confusing the public perception of the case and for inflaming tensions among the DA, the cops, and other factions to the point where the investigation may be stalemated. He focuses on the carnivorous mode of the mass media, particularly their lurid, immediate indictment of the Ramsey parents. Singulars perceptive exploration of the near-universal call for the Ramseys' heads reveals the gritty power struggles and class schisms that underlie the shiny, comforting facade of the Boulder region. Unlike his dirt-chasing peers, he gives nuanced attention to an unsettling aspect of the case that he considers overlooked yet central: the gray area in which the mainstreamed commodification of childrens sexuality collides with the abuse of child pornography. JonBenet was merely one of many little girls leeringly displayed as things of beauty by the pageant industry, whose evil twin is the underground of child porn producers and collectors, hugely expanded because of the Internet. Although the author claims at points to have uncovered voluminous evidence, he incorporates few of the particulars, giving his odyssey its own patina of conspiracy theory. Singulars ultimate scenariothat neither parent personally murdered JonBenet, but one parents unwitting involvement led to attempts at concealmentbears consideration, but like this subtly rendered book, may well go unheard in the collective din. Without fully lighting the dark corners of an unappealing realm, Singular has produced a balanced, detailed, thoughtful consideration of an incident usually reduced to cultural dissonance. (First printing of 100,000; $100,000 ad/promo) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book begins with a prologue that seems primarily designed to convince the reader of Singular's unique (if one will pardon the pun) status as a reporter of crime and as a moral authority. People in Denver, he tells us, "were trashing one of the most basic principles of our legal system--the presumption of innocence" by speculating that the Ramsey parents murdered their daughter. Soon after, Singular attacks the media for analyzing President Clinton's speeches, thereby violating his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The list of alleged constitutional violations continues, but the problem with Singular's accusations is that they are wrong and hypocritical. First, the idea that the media are violating Clinton's constitutional rights by analyzing his words is farcical. Second, Singular laments media accusations while he makes his own. Apparently, he excludes himself from the moral dicta he reserves for others.
The book, therefore, is one that I view with intense skepticism. Naturally, an author who is ignorant of basic law may still be accurate in other respects. However, the egregiousness of the errors and the author's double standard detract from his trustworthiness. Of the crime itself, Singular tells us little. The main contribution he makes is in his theory that the killing is related to Internet pornography, though there is little evidence in the book to support the theory. Indeed, the theory almost seems to be an afterthought to the book, added without regard to cohesiveness. It is ironic that a book that begins by upbraiding the media for thinking that the parents murdered their daughter ends by suggesting that at least one of the parents abetted the killer.
Though the essential aspects of "Presumed Guilty" are misguided or insubstantial, there is a fair amount of inside information that is interesting and saves this book from the nadir of investigative journalism, albeit only barely. The author depicts, as others have, the chasm separating Boulder's two law-enforcement branches, the police and the district attorney's office. In addition, Singular provides some firsthand insights about one particular tabloid reporter. Finally, there is Singular's commentary on the "culture of pornography" (as the title suggests). Sadly, though, Singular's skills are not sufficient to make much of a case regarding this culture and its intersection with the child beauty pageants that, arguably, launched the case to national prominence.
He offers no evidence to support his scenario and not only raises more questions that he answers, but he questions his own answers -- every other sentence in this book ends with a question mark. This is investigative reporting?
Mr. Singular castigates the media for presuming the guilt of the ramseys without evidence -- but he feels no shame about putting forward his own nightmare scenario and presuming its validity without offering a shred of evidence.
It is a shame that more focus was not given to this aspect of the case during investigation. If you have an interest in this case, you should read this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stephen Singular is a freelance journalist who did his own investigation into the murder of JonBenét Ramsey.Read more