JonBenet Ramsey: The Polygraph Ploy

How does a lawyer go about reining in the media?  Well, by giving a press conference and telling the Ramsey’s polygraph story in his own words.


And I retained the services of an individual who was represented to me to be competent, qualified and fair: a gentleman by the name of Jerry Toriello, T-O-R-I-E-L-L-O, of Clifton, New Jersey. Jerry Toriello is not able to be here today. He had a minor surgical procedure on Friday and is not able to travel until the end of this week. Otherwise, Jerry Toriello would have been here.

Consistent with their honesty and their candor, I will tell you that John and Patsy Ramsey, when tested by Jerry Toriello, ran what is referred to in the field as inconclusive charts, inconclusive examinations. Jerry Toriello recommended that John and Patsy be retested.

For those familiar with our prior trilogies, the excerpts Wood touches on will ring a bell.  It’s important to rehash them in the sense of providing the complete transcript, simply so one can see the subtlety within the full context.


Former Boulder Detective Steve Thomas stated: “John, one of the things, as you know better than anybody, at some point, if you’re not involved in this, we’ve got to take you out of the bucket. And you’ve been in it for four months and you certainly know why you’re in that bucket, is you’re in the house, and I don’t need to say anything more than that. But — and I asked this question of Patsy and where it might come out as, but I’ll ask it. And I’m not asking you to take one, but if you were to take a polygraph, how would you do?”

John Ramsey stated in April of 1997: “Well, what I’ve been told is that — and I felt tremendous guilt after we lost JonBenét because I had not protected her, like I failed as a parent, and was told that that kind of emotion, you shouldn’t take a lie detector test because you did not — because you did have that guilt feeling. So I don’t know about the test, but I did not kill my daughter, if that’s what you want to ask me. She was the most precious thing to me in the world. So if the lie detector test is correct, and if it is done correct, I’d pass it 100 percent.”

Steve Thomas went on to say, “Well, I’ll ask you point blank: At some point in this, would you take a polygraph?”

John Ramsey answered, “I would be insulted if you asked me to take a polygraph test, frankly. I mean, if you haven’t talked to enough people, we’re telling you what kind of people we are. You guys — I mean, I’ll do whatever these guys recommend to me to do. We are not the kind of people you’re trying to make us out to be.”

 That’s an official transcript of the questions that were asked of John Ramsey with respect to a lie detector or polygraph exam in April of 1997.

Patsy Ramsey was asked the following question: Patsy said, first: “What does it take to move past me?”  Steve Thomas said, “Well, let me ask you this. And I know Pat Burke who was there – Patsy’s lawyer – “going to jump all over me. And I know — well, let me ask you this way. I’m not asking you to take one, but, hypothetically, if you took a polygraph, how would you do?”

Patsy Ramsey stated: “I’m telling you the truth. I would — I mean, I don’t know how those things work, but if they tell the truth, I’m telling the truth. I’ve never, ever given anybody a reason to think otherwise. I want to find out who did this, period.”

Steve Thomas: “Does that mean, yes, you’d pass it?”

Patsy Ramsey said, “Yes, I would pass it. I’ll take 10 of them. I don’t care. You know, do whatever you want.”

In June of 1998, John and Patsy Ramsey again spent time asking — questions with Boulder authorities. They again voluntarily agreed to answer questions, this time for three full days each. Interrogation for three full days in June of 1998 and not one word was asked, not one mention was made about a polygraph examination. In fact, from April of 1997 when they were interrogated by former Detective Thomas, until April of 2000, three years later, not one mention, not one request, no discussion from the Boulder Police or the Boulder D.A. about a lie detector or polygraph examination.

I’m not sure if that’s entirely accurate.  Thomas refers to a Team Ramsey lawyer that was “going to jump all over him” if he asked about lie detector tests, and John said he was insulted by the question.  Thomas asked them anyway.  Why would it be necessary to cover the same ground a second time in a follow-up interview, particularly if it was such a contentious subject?

As it turns out in a press conference with media on May 1st 1997 the polygraph question came up.


REPORTER: John, what do you say to people who raise questions and criticize and say no amount of advice from any number of attorneys would have kept me from talking and telling them every bit of information I had … this criticism came from Polly Klaas’s father … that you wouldn’t take a lie detector test, that you would have …

JOHN:  We have spoken to the police, we spoke with the police approximately eight hours on the 26th, another two hours on the 27th (and) have supplied them with every piece of information we have, so the question that we haven’t spoken to the police is totally false. What we have but what has been delayed, has been this formal interrogation of us as suspects. And frankly, we, we were as you might imagine, insulted that we would even be considered suspects in the death of our daughter and felt that an interrogation of us was a waste of our time and a waste of the police’s time. But because we have to do this, we had to do it. But not under any circumstance that was presented to us.

Does John even mention a lie detector test in his answer? He mentions being insulted to be considered suspects and the delay of a formal interrogation but nothing about willingness or unwillingness to take a lie detector test.  He simply avoids answering the question altogether.

Back to Lin Wood.


In March of this year [2000], John and Patsy had their book published, “The Death of Innocence,” and they agreed to and undertook to, engaged in media interviews. And just as they had done back in April of 1997 and in June of 1998, they answered every question, and they answered every question honestly.

And in defiance of their lawyers’ advice to avoid getting embroiled in the polygraph controversy, counseled against it, but relying on their innocence and their honesty, John and Patsy Ramsey said in response to the media inquiries — if asked, would you take a polygraph examination? — they said, yes. Their only condition was that it be fair, that it be conducted by an examiner independent from the Boulder Police Department and its investigation, and that the results, whatever they may be, would be made public.

The condition is actually broader than that; that the test not be administered by the FBI, which was what the Boulder police wanted but the Ramseys would not abide.


So that there is no future misunderstanding about this fact, John and Patsy Ramsey, at the time they made those statements on national television, had never taken a polygraph examination. They did not even have a basic understanding of how such an examination worked.

Why is it necessary to say that?  Why would you need to know how a polygraph worked if one were innocent and are trying to confirm one’s innocence?


On April the 11th of this year [2000], I learned from several phone calls from the media that the Boulder Police Department had apparently issued a press release, that Chief Mark Beckner had issued a press statement saying that he was going to accept the Ramseys’ offer and wanted them to appear by a date certain to submit themselves to an FBI polygraph examination.

That’s funny, I thought Lin Wood issued a press statement and an answer.  The way Wood phrases it, it sounds like the Boulder police went behind his back and issued an unexpected press release.  This makes the Boulder police seem disingenuous because the communication is indirect, and thus – potentially – strategic.  But isn’t that precisely how Team Ramsey played it?  Via the media?


I actually thought when I received the letter — despite the fact that it was publicized before I got it, I actually thought that perhaps Chief Beckner would, with some discussions and negotiations, actually be willing to allow John and Patsy Ramsey to take a truly fair and independent polygraph examination. And I did at that time what had not been done before, but what I believe any good attorney would do, and I then arranged for John and Patsy to be privately tested.

Again, Wood’s making subtle and not so subtle aspersions about Chief Beckner’s integrity.

From CNN:

 I called Dr. Gelb [again] and asked if, in fact, he would be retained by me to perform the polygraph examinations. I also upon, his agreement, retained Cleve Baxter from San Diego, California. I had been told that if you want the best quality control review of a polygraph examination in the United States call Cleve Baxter. Cleve Baxter is the originator of the Baxter Zone Comparison Technique, and the originator of the numerical scoring system for polygraph examinations, both of which are now standard protocol in the field of polygraphy. This is the gentleman thought to be, literally, the father of the modern polygraph testing techniques, Cleve Baxter. He agreed to do to quality control of Dr. Gelb’s test.

In other words, Gelb and Baxter were like Homer and Marge Simspon, and the FBI was like Bart in the hierarchical superstructure of lie detection?

From CNN:

John and Patsy Ramsey made a commitment to the public. They made a public commitment to take a fair and independent polygraph examination and to make the results public. They had hoped and we tried to get the Boulder Police Department to participate in a truly fair and independent examination.

If it was truly fair, wouldn’t you simply have the police conduct a test?  If not the Boulder police, then the police at some other precinct?  Why this whole private affair with lawyers brokering the whole process, and then at the appropriate time private becomes public?  Why not do it on live television if it’s so transparent, and so public?

From CNN:

We offered for the examination to be conducted by a non-FBI examiner with FBI oversight of the entire process. That offer was rejected. We offered to have the FBI polygraph group come up with a list of non-FBI polygraph examiners that they felt were reliable, qualified, and trustworthy, and we would pick one of those examiners, and we would take the test, and that offer was rejected.

At least Lin Wood admits – right at the end of his spiel – how the FBI were selectively excluded.  What the fuck is a non-FBI polygraph examiner?  Seriously.  How does anyone offer the FBI an opportunity to select a non-FBI polygraph examiner, and call that credible in any universe?

From CNN:

My belief has been from very early on in this process that Boulder Police Department never intended to allow John and Patsy Ramsey to take a truly fair and independent polygraph examination in which they would participate. And my belief was confirmed May 16, when Mark Beckner rejected the offer of the American Polygraph Association to provide an examiner and a test that would be fair to both sides.

John and Patsy Ramsey are here today to honor their commitment. I would now like to ask Dr. Gelb to address for you the test that was performed by him and the results of those tests — Dr. Gelb.

I deal with the questions and results of those tests in the next instalment of the Black Star series.