Investigator Who Was Sued for Theory that JonBenét Ramsey's Brother Killed Her Responds in Court Filing
According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE and filed in Michigan on Wednesday, Spitz is arguing that the suit should be dismissed with prejudice because his claims that Burke killed his younger sibling JonBenét in 1996 were merely “speculation.”
“This lawsuit arises from the public discussion about theories involving one of the major unsolved crimes of the 20th Century,” Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP wrote on behalf of Spitz. “Because the First Amendment protects this speech on a matter of immense public concern, Plaintiff Burke Ramsey’s lawsuit should be dismissed.”
In The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, a panel of investigators — including Spitz — developed a theory that 6-year-old JonBenét was accidentally killed by Burke. The beauty pageant queen was found dead in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado, in Dec. 1996.
Burke, now 29, filed the defamation suit in October, alleging that Spitz’s claims “attacked and permanently harmed” his reputation. He is requesting compensatory damages “in an amount not less than” $50 million and punitive damages of no less than $100 million.
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Spitz’s attorneys are arguing that JonBenét’s murder is “a subject of significant public interest and controversy.”
“Dr. Spitz expressed his own view — as the First Amendment affords him the right to do — but his speculations, even if firmly held and confidently expressed, are not statements of fact,” the response said.
In response to Spitz’s motion for dismissal, Burke’s attorney L. Lin Wood told PEOPLE in a statement that, “the motion to dismiss by Defendant Spitz is a standard media defense tactic.”
“The United States Supreme Court has made it very clear that the First Amendment does not provide blanket protection to all statements characterized as opinion,” Wood said. “Spitz’s statements conveyed that Burke Ramsey killed his sister. That accusation is capable of being objectively proven to be false. Further, Spitz’s accusation was based on undisclosed facts and more importantly, false and distorted facts. Simply stated, Spitz’s accusation is legally viewed as a statement of fact, not a protected opinion.”
A hearing on Spitz’s motion for summary disposition is currently scheduled for Feb. 24, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.