A disputed confession is at the heart of the trial that began this morning for a man charged with setting a deadly fire in October 2005 at a Lawrence apartment complex.
During a half-hour opening statement, assistant district attorney David Melton told jurors that defendant Jason A. Rose admitted to detectives that he set the fire at Boardwalk Apartments because he wanted to see something burn.
"This case is deceptively simple, and at its heart are two questions: One, was the Boardwalk fire intentionally set, and, two, did Jason Rose do it?" he said. "In both cases you will find that the answer is 'yes.'"
But defense attorney Ron Evans said in his opening statement that the truthfulness of Rose's confession is the "$64,000 question" in the case, and that he only started to make admissions to police after "hours of denials." He said a psychologist would testify about Rose's limited mental abilities related to abuse he suffered as a chid.
But prosecutor Melton said videotaped interviews will show that "the defendant was not the victim of any kind of police coercion or trickery."
Said Evans, "You can come to your own conclusion : about whether they treated him fairly or not. : At the end of the case, I submit that you'll have a reasonable doubt, and we'll be asking you to find him not guilty."
Rose is charged with three counts of murder, one count of aggravated arson, and seven counts of aggravated battery related to people who were seriously injured in the fire.
"You do not have to find that Jason Rose intended to burn the entire building down - only that he intended to set fire to part of the building," Melton told jurors. "You do not have to find that Jason Rose intend to kill anyone, and you do not have to find that Jason Rose intended to hurt any one."
Rose's trial is expected to last up to two weeks. His first trial in February ended in a mistrial, after prosecutors discovered a new witness at the start of the trial's second week.