Rocky Flats to Ramseys: Grand jurors work in secret, but the truth will out

rocky flats from the air.jpg
Rocky Flats.
The truth, like plutonium, has a way of leaking out. After two years of deliberations, the Rocky Flats grand jury wanted to charge eight individuals for environmental crimes at the nuclear weapons plant -- but the Justice Department declined to indict, and instead sent the jurors home in the spring of 1992, reminding them that they must remain silent. Seven years later, grand jurors considering the death of JonBenet Ramsey wanted to charge her parents with felonies -- but the Boulder District Attorney's office refused.

That's the news now leaking out in Boulder, in Daily Camera stories by Charlie Brennan, who covered the case for the former Rocky Mountain News and later moved to the local Fox station. "We didn't know who did what, but we felt the adults in the house may have done something that they certainly could have prevented, or they could have helped her, but they didn't," one juror told Brennan.

But in 1999, then-DA Alex Hunter simply announced that the grand jury had completed its work and no charges would be filed. At the time, the Ramseys were represented the Haddon, Morgan and Foreman firm.

The jurors in Brennan's stories are all quoted anonymously; under grand jury rules, everything discussed behind closed doors is kept confidential, and any juror who spills secrets can be held in contempt of court.

That's what the members of the Rocky Flats grand jury -- Colorado's first-ever special grand jury -- were told over and over when they started meeting in August 1989 to consider evidence seized in the FBI raid of Rocky Flats that June. And when they told the Justice Department that they wanted to indict eight employees of the Department of Energy and Rockwell International, which ran the plant for the DOE, the Justice Department instead sealed a deal with Rockwell International -- which also happened to be represented by Haddon, Morgan and Foreman -- that fined the company and guaranteed no individual would be charged.

Unless it was a grand juror charged with contempt of court for speaking out.

Many of those jurors did speak with Westword, though, under the guarantee of anonymity, which is why we were able to spill the secrets of Rocky Flats in our "Justice Denied" cover story in September 1992.

It's taken longer for Boulder's secrets to spill -- over thirteen years. But as the stories of the last few days show: Truth will out.

From the Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Plans for the Jefferson Parkway are kicking up lots of (radioactive?) dust."

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