Image: John Mark Karr in court
Mario Anzuoni  /  Getty Images file
John Mark Karr listens to authorities during his extradition hearing on Los Angeles on Tuesday.
NBC, and news services
updated 8/23/2006 10:05:02 PM ET 2006-08-24T02:05:02

John Mark Karr, the suspect in the slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, was on suicide watch Wednesday after an evaluation by a prison psychologist, MSNBC’s Rita Cosby reported.

Karr, who arrived in Los Angeles from Bangkok, Thailand, agreed Tuesday to go to Colorado to face charges against him in the 1996 murder of the young beauty pageant queen.

NBC News’ Mike Taibbi, citing sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported that Karr would not be transferred to Colorado on Wednesday. The timing of his trip is up to authorities, who have been tightlipped about it.

Later on Wednesday, Jamie Harmon, one of Karr's attorneys, confirmed at a press conference that Karr would not be going to Colorado “much before early next week.”

“Mr. Karr has been portrayed by the media as of late as being mentally unstable, attention-seeking, unwell, mentally unwell," attorney Jamie Harmon said. "And he is none of those things. He is anxious to have an opportunity to address the allegations against him, to be portrayed in a more accurate and complete way.”

Prison authorities gave a different view of Karr’s mental state, reported Cosby, who said he was ordered to wear special clothing that cannot be tied in knots to be used as a noose.

Also Wednesday, Karr’s relatives offered the movie and book rights to the family’s story in hopes of hiring a high-level attorney to defend the schoolteacher.

Karr’s father and brother hired actor, author and producer Larry Garrison to represent them in any media deals and to help them find a top attorney to represent Karr.

'Not looking for money'
Garrison told The Associated Press that while the family’s film and book rights are secured, no money has changed hands yet. He said he promised the Karrs a portion of any money made by the effort.

“They’re not looking for money for themselves,” Garrison said. “They’re looking to support John’s boys’ college education and to make sure all legal fees are covered.”

Karr’s brother, Nate Karr, confirmed to the AP on Wednesday that Garrison now represents the Karr family.

Garrison has written and produced several news films and had minor acting roles. He said that the family will be looking for a well-known attorney to represent Karr.

“Right now he’s got a public defender to represent him,” Garrison said. “It’s their desire to get someone high-level.”

Garrison declined to say if the family has been in touch with Karr in jail.

In a two-minute court appearance on Tuesday, Karr was impassive and his expression changed only once when he slowly closed his eyes as the judge recited the count of first-degree murder that Boulder prosecutors included in an arrest warrant.

Harmon, the attorney, attended Tuesday’s hearing and is partners with Patience Van Zandt, who represented Karr when he was charged in 2001 with possessing child pornography in Northern California.

With the order from Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin, Karr was available to be picked up by Boulder authorities at any time.

Proof of innocence?
Georgia attorney Gary Harris, who had represented Wexford and Nate Karr in recent days, has said that the family found a photo from Christmas 1996 that indicates Karr was in Atlanta, not Colorado, at the time of Ramsey’s death.

Harris no longer represents Wexford and Nate Karr, Garrison said, but a family photo has been turned over to Boulder authorities. He could not say what the photo shows.

“I can tell you they proclaim his innocence,” Garrison said. “They feel he was not there at the time, that some of the statements made by the press are absurd.”

He said the family is not looking to get rich off the story.

“These people are spiritually coming from the right place,” Garrison said. “They’re really good people. They’re family oriented. They’re not greedy. They’re looking for the spin to stop.”

Karr, who had been photographed in Thailand and on his trip to the United States wearing civilian clothes, appeared in court wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, his hands cuffed to a chain around his waist.

His attorney for the hearing, Deputy Public Defender Haydeh Takasugi, said Karr was concerned about appearing in jail attire rather than civilian clothes.

“It’s going to taint any potential jury pool out there,” Takasugi said. “He was upset at that.”

Other letters signed 'S.B.T.C.'
On Wednesday, Quientana Ray, who married Karr when she was 13, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in a pre-recorded interview that Karr was controlling and used to tell her about fantasies he had about little girls.

“I was drugged and things were done to me without me having any idea,” said Ray, who is now married with a 4-month old child.

Her parents, Melissa and Larry Shotts of Hamilton, Ala., said they also discovered letters Karr wrote to their daughter that were signed “S.B.T.C.” — the same initials found on a ransom note left in the Ramseys’ home. They did not show the letters during the interview and it wasn’t clear if they still had them.

Boulder prosecutors have not disclosed their evidence against Karr. The crimes stated in the arrest warrant were not formal charges, according to Boulder County District Attorney spokeswoman Carolyn Fench, who said the crimes listed in the warrant are possible charges.

In addition to first-degree murder, the counts against Karr in a sealed probable-cause arrest warrant include felony murder, first-degree kidnapping, second-degree kidnapping and sexual assault on a child.

'Insurance policy for the prosecution'
Perhaps the most unexpected was the possible felony murder claim, which means prosecutors are either accusing Karr of killing JonBenet during the course of a sexual assault or kidnapping, or alleging he was present while someone else killed the girl.

Felony murder carries the same penalties as first-degree murder: either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

“It’s a perfect insurance policy for the prosecution in Colorado,” said former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman. “Even if a jury were to somehow buy that this was an accident, any death during the commission of a kidnapping or sexual assault is first-degree murder regardless.”

Felony murder is often described as allowing “vicarious liability” and could relate to Karr’s statement to reporters in Thailand on Sunday that he was present when JonBenet died and that her death was an accident. He did not specifically say he killed her.

MSNBC’s Rita Cosby, NBC News’ Mike Taibbi, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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