Was The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey Really Necessary?

CBS' docuseries ended with investigators saying they believed Burke Ramsey, JonBenét's brother, committed the murder...but did it really tell viewers anything new?

By Tierney Bricker Sep 20, 2016 7:05 PMTags
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They solved it. They think. Maybe.

Just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the case that captivated a nation's attention, CBS' highly anticipated series The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey took a closer look at the murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey. And in Monday's final installment of the docuseries, the team assembled by CBS unanimously reached a verdict: they believe JonBenét's older brother, Burke Ramsey, who was nine at the time of the murder, killed her, most likely accidentally, and their parents, John and Patsy, covered up the crime.

And to this we say: OK, so?

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Originally intended to be a six-hour limited series that ran over the course of five nights, CBS quietly decided to trim The Case Of to just four episodes airing over two nights. And even then it was stretching; desperately trying to fill the 240 minutes (less with commercials, we know) with lingering shots of bowls of pineapple and repeated close-ups of cobwebs because. THEY. MEANT. SOMETHING.

But did they really?

Listen, reopening any investigation is hard, let alone a case that has had the amount of attention, speculation and coverage the JonBenét case has endured since December 26, 1996. We're not arguing that. What we take issue with is CBS choosing to make SUCH a big deal about this series and the new technology they would use in an attempt to finally give us answers. And then failing to deliver on that promise. (The limited event was originally titled Case Closed, by the way.)

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The team assembled was led by New York City prosecutor and retired FBI supervisory special agent and profiler Jim Clemente and former New Scotland Yard criminal behavioral analyst Laura Richards, who both had not worked on the original investigation. And that was kind of the problem. While some of the investigators had been a part of the original investigation, including James R. Fitzgerald, we didn't actually feel their connection to the case. These felt like hired hands, not invested professionals with a personal desire to solve the case.

In Netflix's Making a Murderer, you felt Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi's outrage over the injustices endured by Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. Andrew Jarecki's struggle to come to terms with the fact that he actually liked Robert Durst was one of the very best aspects of The Jinx, as was Sara Koening's heartfelt and complex connection to Adnan Syed in the podcast Serial's stellar first season. We cared because they cared.

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In the case of The Case Of, it seemed like they cared because CBS asked them to.

And then there was the over-dramatization. Having a 10-year-old boy strike a mannequin with a flashlight? Tasering a man to see the effect it could have possibly had on six-year-old's body? It added an additional ick factor to a case already filled to the brim with ick.

Over-produced, The Case Of oddly felt stuffed and hollow at the same time, like a chocolate Easter bunny. Clearly, the team did not discover as much new and relevant evidence as they hoped, and had to find a way to fill the time. So what could've been a thoughtful re-examination of the case, as well as the media and public's obsession with it, ended up being a rushed docuseries that felt like an attempt to cash in on the current true crime trend. Hell, there was even an O.J. Simpson reference in the first installment, with the gardener saying Patsy once told him she thought he got away with murder. 

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And then there was the last 15 minutes, in which the team, acting as private citizens, reached its conclusion that Burke Ramsey likely killed his sister. During the final installment, Clemente said they had made multiple attempts to contact John and Burke (Patsy Ramsey died in 2006), but never heard back. 

Instead, Burke decided to sitdown with Dr. Phil for his first media interview after 20 years, which began airing a few days prior to The Case Of's premiere. Many have speculated that the family knew the CBS special would suggest Burke committed the murder, and the interview was an attempt for Burke to get his story out there ahead of the special.

Sadly (or ironically), the Dr. Phil sitdown ended up making Burke seem more suspicious to viewers than The Case Of, with many people on social media finding his smiling throughout the interview, among other physical tics, bizarre. (Dr. Phil later defended Burke's behavior.)

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While the CBS special made sure to spend precious minutes on  the 911 call audio and the pineapple found in JonBenet's small intestine, it seemed to gloss over the tapes of a young Burke being interviewed, two separate  times, after the murder. The 911 call operator was interviewed by Clemente and Richards, why not either of the two people who interviewed Burke? Or, you know, a child behavioral expert? 

In the end, The Case Of repeated the facts that were already out there, just in an over-dramatized bowl of pineapples with milk.

What did you think of The Case Of? Did you expect more concrete evidence? Sound off in the comments.