By Melissa Garcia
WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. (CBS4)– Burke Ramsey is suing the Michigan forensic pathologist who claimed that Burke killed his sister JonBenet.
Dr. Werner Spitz appeared last month in “The Case of JonBenet Ramsey,” a CBS docuseries that re-examined JonBenet Ramsey’s death 20 years after her brutal murder.
The defamation lawsuit asks for $50 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.
Lin Wood, the attorney for Burke Ramsey, 29, said that Spitz’ accusation put Burke under a false cloud of suspicion.
In an interview with the CBS affiliate in Detroit, Spitz reportedly named Burke Ramsey as JonBenet’s killer.
Wood said that Spitz’s claim was based on information that was distorted, exaggerated, and altogether false.
“There’s no place in an orderly and just society for an individual to go out and use his so-called credentials and his so-called position as an expert to brand this young man as a killer,” said Wood in a phone interview with CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.
Boulder police, and later the Boulder District Attorney’s Office, publicly cleared Burke Ramsey, along with his parents John and Patsy.
In the lawsuit complaint filed Thursday, Wood referred to Spitz as “a publicity seeker with a history of interjecting himself in high profile cases in an effort to make money, exaggerate his resume and claim a level of expertise that he does not possess or deserve.”
According to Karen Steinhauser, a law professor and former prosecutor in the Denver area, the law protects citizens from statements that cause harm to others.
“Yes there is free speech, but there are limits,” said Steinhauser.
Despite Burke’s recent appearance on Dr. Phil, Wood was prepared to argue to the court that Burke was a private figure, a status that would carry a lower standard for defamation.
“If he was a public figure, Burke Ramsey would have to prove there was actual malice in terms of the statements being made, verses a private figure just has to show that these statements were basically made recklessly,” Steinhauser said.
Dr. Spitz declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Wood said that he planned to file an additional defamation lawsuit against CBS at the end of October.
CBS Entertainment produced the docuseries. Its parent company, CBS, owns CBS4 News.