BOULDER, Colo. — Confusion over John Mark Karr’s legal representation continued Saturday as a Colorado attorney denied reports that she will help two California lawyers defend the suspect in the slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey.
Public defender Seth Temin has insisted his office is Karr’s sole representative, but California attorneys Jamie Harmon and Patience Van Zandt have said Karr hired them.
The Rocky Mountain News reported Saturday that Colorado attorney Rachel Cohen had agreed to help Harmon and Van Zandt with the case. In a statement posted on her Web site Saturday, however, Cohen said, “I have not represented (Karr) and will not be representing him.”
“We are fortunate in Colorado to have what may well be the best public defender system in the United States,” Cohen wrote.
Karr, 41, was arrested in Thailand earlier this month and accused of the Dec. 26, 1996, murder of 6-year-old JonBenet at her family’s Boulder home. The case has vexed experts for a decade.
Karr’s first appearance in Boulder County Court is scheduled for Monday. He has not been formally charged in the JonBenet’s death.
On Friday, the judge issued a gag order, preventing lawyers, police officials and others from discussing many aspects of the case.
Attorneys taken to task
District Court Judge Roxanne Bailin further marginalized the two California lawyers Friday by ordering that “any private person, professional or not” must obtain written permission from Temin before contacting Karr.
The phrase “professional or not” in Bailin’s order is rare and blocks any attorneys from offering their services without Temin’s approval, former public defender Larry Pozner said.
“The tug of war is over,” Pozner said. “I think the public defenders are firmly in control of the case, and the amateur hour is over. It was sad. It was a low point in the profession.”
Van Zandt and Harmon did not return telephone messages and e-mails from the Associated Press Friday or Saturday.
Amid a flurry of legal motions filed Friday, Temin asked the court to block any sampling or testing of Karr’s DNA and argued that “if such a sample has already been obtained it was not obtained pursuant to applicable law.”
After JonBenet’s father, John Ramsey, found her body in the family’s basement on Dec. 26, 1996, police collected DNA from blood spots in her underwear and from under her fingernails.
DNA tests called into question
Investigators have said that some of the DNA was too degraded to use as evidence, but that some was of sufficient quality to submit to the FBI in 2003. The sample did not match any of the 1.5 million samples in the agency’s database at the time, according to the Ramsey family attorney.
Karr was given a mouth-swab DNA test while he was in Thailand, a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation has told The Associated Press. The results of that test were not known.
Temin suggested Karr will not provide DNA samples without a court order. After meeting with Karr, he said he did not know whether authorities had actually obtained any DNA samples.
Boulder County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Carolyn French said Saturday that professional conduct rules and a judge’s gag order prohibited her office from commenting on evidence.
JonBenet was found strangled with a skull fracture. Authorities once said her parents were under “an umbrella of suspicion,” but prosecutors never charged anyone in the case.
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