JonBenet Ramsey's brother sues Dr. Werner Spitz; case to be heard in Michigan court

Defamation lawsuit filed over what Spitz said in CBS documentary

DETROIT – JonBenet Ramsey's brother, Burke Ramsey, is suing Dr. Werner Spitz for what he said in a CBS documentary about who killed the 6-year-old girl back in 1996. 

Burke Ramsey's defamation lawsuit against the esteemed pathologist seeks $150 million. The case goes before a judge in Wayne County on Wednesday. The judge will have to decide if this will go to trial. 

"It's nonsensical. It's outrageous. It will not stand," said L. Linn Wood, attorney for Burke Ramsey. 

During part of the documentary, Spitz accuses Burke Ramsey of JonBenet's murder, saying, "You cannot come to a different conclusion. It's the boy who did it. Whether he was jealous or mentally unfit or something ... I don't know the why."

Burke Ramsey's attorney said Spitz is unqualified to make such claims. 

"He never examined the child. He's never spoken to the forensic pathologist. He's never been to the crime scene. He's never firsthand examined a single piece of actual evidence. And yet he goes out and says, 'Oh it was the flashlight in the hands of the son in the kitchen. It's like he's playing the game of Clue," said Wood. 

Burke Ramsey was 9 years old at the time of JonBenet's murder. He's about 30 now. While police never identified a murder weapon, Spitz claimed the weight and shape of a flashlight found on the Ramsey family's kitchen counter was consistent with the skull injury which killed the young beauty queen. 

The day after the documentary first aired, Burke Ramsey's attorney demanded a retraction. Spitz refused. 

The lawsuit claims Spitz's theory has deeply harmed Burke Ramsey. 

"I have no fear of Burke Ramsey clearing his name against the false accusations of Werner Spitz in a court of law," said Wood. 

Burke Ramsey also field a lawsuit against CBS for $750 million. CBS said they stand by what was said and the broadcast. The media company will defend it in a court of law if necessary. 

In court documents, Spitz's attorneys said he should be covered by the First Amendment regardless of what he said. 

About Dr. Werner Spitz

Spitz is often recognized as one of the most respected forensic scientists worldwide. After 45 years of work, he said he is still up to the challenge of helping solve some of the most mysterious cases. He currently works as a professor of pathology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. 

Before a long career in several high-profile cases, Spitz served on two prestigious panels that investigated the death of President John F. Kennedy. He said he immediately ruled out any notion of a conspiracy in Kennedy's death because the president's neck wound proved the bullet was fired from behind him.

More recently, Spitz testified in the Casey Anthony murder trial. During the trial Spitz told the jury he thought it was a shoddy investigation and that the autopsy conducted by the Orlando medical examiner was flawed. He said he believes the examiner's office staged photos of Caylee Anthony's skull and that duct tape was placed on her skull after the body had decomposed.

After about a half century of cases, Spitz said there are two Detroit-area cases that definitely stick with him: The Oakland County Child Killer case from the 1970s and the crash of Northwest Airlines flight 255, which crashed in Romulus in 1987, killing all aboard except one 4-year-old passenger -- the deadliest sole-survivor plane crash in U.S. history.

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About the Authors:

Nick joined the Local 4 team in February of 2015. Prior to that he spent 6 years in Sacramento covering a long list of big stories including wildfires and earthquakes. Raised in Sterling Heights, he is no stranger to the deep history and pride Detroit has to offer.

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.