Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Arson suspect wants statement off record

Attorney says Rose’s remarks weren’t voluntary

September 20, 2006


He has attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder from childhood abuse and a learning disability, and he was taking anti-psychotic medicine.

So was his hourslong statement to police, given in multiple interrogations during the course of three days, voluntary?

That was the question Tuesday in a court hearing that delved into the mental state of Jason A. Rose, 21, who's charged with setting the fire last fall at Boardwalk Apartments that killed three people and seriously injured eight others.

Rose's attorney is asking a judge to rule that his statements to police can't be used in court because they were not voluntary - a question that will hinge on Rose's age, intellect, background and the fairness of the officers who interviewed him.

Lawrence Police Detective Troy Squire, who interviewed Rose after the fire, was the only witness Tuesday during the roughly three-hour hearing in District Court. He answered questions about his videotaped interview with Rose from Assistant Dist. Atty. Amy McGowan and defense attorney Ron Evans.

Squire testified he first encountered Rose after learning Rose was a resident of the complex, in the 500 block of Fireside Drive, who had called 911 to report the fire. In an interview in a booth at a Wendy's restaurant where Rose worked, he at first told officers he'd seen the fire start on the south end of the building and spread north - a description that Squire said didn't match what other witnesses saw.

A court hearing Tuesday focused on a statement made to police by Jason Rose, the man charged with setting a fire at Boardwalk Apartments that killed three people.

A court hearing Tuesday focused on a statement made to police by Jason Rose, the man charged with setting a fire at Boardwalk Apartments that killed three people.

When officers took Rose to the scene to ask him to point out where he saw the fire start, he changed his story and said it started in a different place. Squire said he thought Rose was "struggling with deception."

"Or mentally?" defense attorney Evans asked.

"Could be a lot of things," Squire said. "I took it as deception."

Around that time, Squire said, he learned from state officials that Rose had been in trouble in the past for setting fires while in foster care. The state sent him a fax of about 20 pages of background on Rose, which Squire said he reviewed quickly while Rose was waiting in an interview room.

Evans said Squire should have known from those documents that Rose had been the victim of physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a child, had been diagnosed with mental-health troubles and was taking a variety of drugs. But Squire said he was mainly reading those reports to find evidence of past fire setting.

"I would have liked to have had days to look into Jason before interviewing him. That's not how this played out," Squire said.

Squire testified that a Social and Rehabilitation Services employee told him Rose had a history of setting fires. But the only one mentioned in the initial stack of documents Squire saw was an incident seven years earlier in which a foster home staff member found a smoldering rubber glove in a trash can in Rose's room.

Squire said Rose eventually admitted setting about 20 fires, but he acknowledged some of them were legal fires such as campfires.

Eventually, Rose admitted setting a piece of paper on fire outside the building, according to prior testimony. When police told him something that small couldn't have started the fire, he said he set a box of paperwork on fire.

After Rose told police he didn't want to talk any more, Squire testified, he asked police what would happen if investigators found out he didn't set the fire and it was caused by a natural gas line.

Judge Jack Murphy said he would first watch interview footage of Rose's interrogation before deciding the issue. Rose is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 6.


mcgheekm 11 years, 9 months ago

He seems to be the one that is running the show here.

Lawrence Burton 11 years, 9 months ago

Is there a line forming yet to be the person who pushes the button.

If so I want in.


concernedparent 11 years, 9 months ago

yeah and all the families that were harmed and destroyed because of the fires would like their lives back. Boo hoo. Keep him in jail where he belongs.

Raider 11 years, 9 months ago

The bad childhood defense has gotten so flipping old. Get over it! So you got beat as a child! Get over it!! A lot of people out there had $hitty childhoods and not everyone is burning down apartment buildings with people inside.

If this guy likes fire so much I say they sentence him to death by fire. Lock him in a wooden shed and light it up!

Ragingbear 11 years, 9 months ago

Me too. This is just a load of it.

Also, the state has now opened themselves to MASSIVE lawsuits by the victims. I know I am contacting my lawyer later today.

Confrontation 11 years, 9 months ago

"He has attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder from childhood abuse and a learning disability, and he was taking anti-psychotic medicine."

If all of these things led to these murders, then this makes a good case for opening some more state mental institutions. They also need to track down his useless biological parents and throw them in jail with their son.

Baille 11 years, 9 months ago

Missing the point.

The argument that his statements were not voluntary are not offered as a justification or as a defesne to the fire itself. It merely is offered to show that the interrogators should have taken more precautions to ensure that the statements they were soliciting were reliable. This has to do with due process, not with the merits of the case. If we are to ensure fair trials in general, we have to have a means of making sure righst are respected and rules, regulations, and protocols are followed in individual cases. These are preventative measures that protect all of us from abuses by the state.

On the other hand, there is an argument that the defendant never intended to burn the building and did not engage in the kind of outrageous conduct that would rise to the level of murder or manslaughter. That would be an argument on the merits of the case and would most certainly lead to a finding of not guilty. However, that argument is not being made here.

Neither has anyone argued that his childhood "made him do it" or in any way would excuse the reckless or intentional setting of this fire. This would be an argument for leniency in the face of a finding of guilt. This argument would affect the proper sentence to ensure that it was proportional and just. Again, this is not at issue at this time.

On the other hand, it has been suggested that his childhood was filled with trauma and on the night in questions he was burning letters or pictures of the biological family that caused him so much pain. This is not an excuse for reckless conduct or intentionally setting fire to an occupied building. Instead this version may simply be a factual account of what happened. Again, this goes to the legal merits of the case. His conduct may not have met the legal standard of reckless and may not have been intentional.

Now before anyone gets up in arms, I lost a friend in that fire - someone who I have fond memories of from long ago, but had not seen in many years. A very special person who had much to offer her community, her friends, and her family. Her loss has impacted many, many people very deeply. And while this young man is responsible for her death, that does not make him guilty of a crime.

With a fair process, at the end of the day, we can take some comfort that justice was done and some solace in knowing that if he is found guilty that it will be a reliable verdict and an accurate measure of his guilt. Without that fair process, which is what this argument and article is about, the only thing we can be sure of is that we have acted no better and no more reliably than a lynch mob or a roving group of vigilantes.

HRmom 11 years, 8 months ago

I have a child that has so much in common with this young man that it is scary. She is my niece. She is A.D.H.D., has been sexually abused and in and out of foster care until I got her out of the system thru the courts. She is also a fire starter. When she is in a "manic phase" she will play with fire. It is not out of spite and she does not understand what the consequences of her actions imply. She has a fasination with it at times. She is in therapy due to her many problems. I have my work cut out for me. I can tell who are the uninitatited in here for whom it is easy to judge what another person will do or say in such a situation. The truth is that whether you have a problem with "that same old defense" it is based in fact with these children. Look up some articles on children with A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. and fire starting. Don't judge until you have some facts. As for what this young man stated to police I am here to tell you not to believe one word of it. His story will change with the weather. The truth is hard to get from these children as they sometimes don't know what it is themselves. They live in an alternate reality. Intense therapy can help only so much as well. This young man has indeed had a hard life so far. Don't knock it unless you've been there.
That does not mean that I condone his actions, it just means that I have a child just like him and I understand his problems in a way that many people don't. These children can frustrate you to no end with the things that they say and do. In the end all that you can hope for is that they can lead a somewhat normal life and not hurt or kill themselves or anyone else in the process.

m1983 11 years, 4 months ago

um. sorry, what the hell does ADD and a learning disability have to do with burning down an entire complex. i am ADD and have a learning disability & i know MANY people with all of his "so called mental illnesses" and they are able to function.. that's really pushing it.

jclairel 11 years, 4 months ago

I don't quite know if I believe that this kid did this. He seems to be a very easy target. This was a horrible tragedy and we all need to place blame and have this come to a close but did they really look anywhere else for an arsonist? Seems to me they grilled this simple, disturbed kid until he confessed. I am just wondering if they got the right guy or if they just got any guy. This is such a sad and painful situation for everyone. No matter what the outcome of the trial...everyone has lost.

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