The airing of CBS's The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey has opened the proverbial Pandora's box on one of the country's most infamous unsolved murder. The special, which re-examines the evidence surrounding the 20 year-old murder, has sparked more debate about the child's death and lead to more theories about what happened on December 25, 1996. And one of the most popular (albeit entirely unproven) theories involves JonBenét's brother, Burke. As the focus of the special turned more and more to the now 29-year-old, many viewers were likely wondering, could Burke Ramsey be charged now for the murder of his younger sister?
This is not the first time Burke Ramsey has been thought about in connection to JonBenét death, despite no evidence directly linking him to the killing. There are many Burke Ramsey conspiracy theories, some of which came to light in the two-part CBS special. Romper reached out to Burke Ramsey's attorney regarding the public scrutiny he has faced since the crime, and he had the following to say:
In May of 1999, the Boulder District Attorney and the Boulder Police Department publicly confirmed that Burke Ramsey was not a suspect or even a possible suspect. Any statement conveying that this young man was involved in the brutal murder of his sister - his life's best friend - is unquestionable false and defamatory. Conveying this false accusation for TV ratings is unconscionable and will result in litigation in the future as it has in the past. There is no legitimate journalistic or First Amendment value in broadcasting false accusations against Burke.
Though a number of people were called into question during the special, the team of investigators, led by former New Scotland Yard criminal behavioral analyst Laura Richards and retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente, seemed to have their eyes set on JonBenét's brother. After recreating the crime scene and reanalyzing evidence, the team hypothesized that a then 9-year-old Burke got upset with his sister over stealing a piece of pineapple and struck her with a flashlight out of anger. The team emphasized that, if this were what happened, it was an accidental murder and not done out of malice.
At the end of the program, CBS aired a disclaimer that read:
The killing of JonBenét Ramsey is a crime that, to this day, remains unsolved. The opinions and conclusions of the investigators who appear on the program about how it may have occurred represent just some of a number of possible scenarios. John Ramsey and Burke Ramsey have denied involvement in the crime, including in recent televised interviews. We encourage viewers to reach their own conclusions.
So if viewers and the larger judicial system were to reach a conclusion similar to that of Richards, Clemente, & Co., could Burke Ramsey be charged today for a crime that occurred two decades ago?
Technically, no. According to the Colorado Rules of Juvenile Proceedings, state law dictates that, "the youngest age at which a child may be tried as an adult is 12, if the child is alleged to have committed a class 1 or 2 felony or a crime of violence, and the juvenile court transfers the case to the district court." Because Burke was 9 at the time of the murder, he misses the cut off for any adult trials. Though he could be tried as a juvenile, no adult charges could be brought against him.
Another factor that may make people suspicious of Burke is his recent appearance on Dr. Phil. During the exclusive three-part interview, Burke — who never spoke to the media prior to this appearance — appeared calm, cool, and a little too happy for some viewers' liking. But in a Facebook Live Q&A on September 15, Dr. Phil defended Burke, saying the 29-year-old was simply nervous.
"It's nothing weird. It's nothing creepy. It's just nervous," Dr. Phil told viewers. "He's a very nice young man...What you're seeing is just anxiety."
At the end of the day, there is one thing to keep in mind. The Burke Ramsey theories are just that — theories. Burke was exonerated due to DNA evidence. He was never formally connected to or charged for the crime. And, because of Colorado law, it will always remain that way.