Does JonBenet case teach a lesson about judging too soon? | NevadaAppeal.com

Does JonBenet case teach a lesson about judging too soon?

A lot of important things have happened this week in Nevada, but yet the story I can’t seem to get out of my mind is the arrest in the killing of JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colo.

Her murder became a national story a decade ago, primarily because she was the adorable daughter of affluent parents. They were ridiculed because they entered 6-year-old JonBenet in beauty pageants, and became prime suspects in her death. It made a great tabloid story.

Since then, there have been hundreds of other murders in Nevada alone that have passed into anonymity, and yet almost anyone would be able to tell you instantly the story of JonBenet. If you asked them the outcome of the case, many would have said the parents or her brother did it but got off scot-free.

That’s probably what I would have said.

It seemed so obvious a conclusion, and the police did little to dispel it. The Ramseys not only were left to grieve for their daughter, but had to defend themselves against public opinion.

After the arrest and confession of a former school teacher, it’s possible the Ramseys were telling the truth all along, unless there’s some twisted plot turn we haven’t yet learned.

It’s human nature to judge others, and so all of the people who took it upon themselves to convict the Ramseys – and that includes me – probably needn’t feel any shame. As a co-worker said, “I think the reason why people, in general, judge is because there has to be someone at fault … you judge what a person looks like, what they are doing, even what a motive could be. Why? Because there has to be a solution, an answer to why people are the way they are.”

Yet, somehow I do feel a twinge of shame over this one, even though the outcome is far from certain. And I wonder if there’s a lesson here.

If so, I doubt it’s one I will have much success retaining. If you need proof, just ask me if I think O.J. killed Ron and Nicole.

•••

On my kitchen counter are two tomatoes. They’re about the size of tennis balls and will represent the bulk of the harvest from my patio gardening efforts this year.

There are a few reasons for the meager bounty from my five tomato plants. There was the freeze in May that burned off those first blossoms. There’s one plant that’s produced a dozen Roma tomatoes, all of which have a strange affliction known as blossom end rot. In other words, they look perfectly fine except they’re rotten on the bottom.

But the prime suspect in all of this is my dog.

My evidence is only circumstantial. Several times I’ve left for work in the morning after spotting a nearly ripe tomato only to return that evening to find it missing.

The dog has a pretty strong case. Exhibit A is that I’ve never known a dog that eats tomatoes. And exhibit B is that he doesn’t look guilty. After eight years with a dog, you can usually ascertain guilt or innocence instantaneously. The time he overturned a garbage can and spread its contents around the kitchen, for example. I knew as soon as I walked in the door I was going to find an unpleasant surprise. He couldn’t look me in the eye.

But in the case of the missing tomatoes, he’s got his act down. He just cocks his head quizzically and innocently wags his tail when I point at the plant in question and blabber on in the sternest voice I can muster.

The third thing he’s got going for him is that the culprit has a level of finickiness this dog has never demonstrated before. Only the best tomatoes get taken. Those that are green or that have the blossom end rot never get touched.

Working against him is that there is no other logical suspect. Any neighbors or animals with designs on my tomatoes would have to get by the dog, who can do a reasonable imitation of a vicious attack animal. On the other hand, he spends most of his day in a coma-like sleep, so it’s not impossible.

All I know is I’m going to savor those two tomatoes, which, after you add up the plants, soil, container, fertilizer, stakes, etc., come out to a cost of about $39.99 each.

•••

There was some excitement in the newsroom last week when we were invited to speak with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later this month at Fallon Naval Air Station.

Rumsfeld doesn’t suffer fools. He truly believes there are such things as stupid questions, and he gives the sense that he hears them every time reporters open their mouths.

For journalists who love challenges – and we certainly do – this would have been the Superbowl of interviews.

But it was not to be as word came this week that the interview had been canceled. Apparently there are more important things happening in the world.

• Barry Ginter is the editor of the Appeal. Contact him at bginter@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.