- Detectivedescribes interview as 'calm' (05-03-07)
- Witnessdescribes 'angriest' fire (05-02-07)
- Juryseated in Boardwalk fire retrial (05-01-07)
- Newarson trial for Rose begins today (04-30-07)
- Subpoenas tothe World Company (.pdf)
- Commentto story "Jurors watch taped police interrogation of Rose"(02-09-07)
- Defenseto make its case this week in trial (02-12-07)
- Juryhears Rose admit setting fire at apartment (02-09-07)
- Witnesssays she saw Rose screaming before fire (02-09-07)
- Juryviews fire video (02-08-07)
The detectives keep saying they want one thing: the truth.
But as their hourslong interview with the man accused of setting a deadly fire at Lawrence's Boardwalk Apartments proceeds, his version of what happened that night keeps changing. He admits setting fire to a piece of paper outside the building, but he abandons that story. The detectives keep pressing.
"I did not start this fire," defendant Jason Rose says at one point in the videotaped interview.
"Yes, you did," Lawrence police Detective Troy Squire answers.
Jurors watched that kind of back-and-forth questioning all day on Thursday, the third day of evidence in Rose's retrial on charges of arson, murder and aggravated battery for the Oct. 7, 2005, fire. A previous trial in February ended in a mistrial.
The video shown Thursday depicted Rose being interviewed by Squire and agent Christy Weidner of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, starting on the evening of Oct. 10. The video is a key piece of evidence in the case because Rose's attorney has said his client has limited mental ability and could have been coerced into confessing.
Rose, who lived in the building that burned, surfaced as a suspect when he gave police a version of how he saw the fire spread that differed from what other witnesses saw. Police suspicions grew when they learned he had shoplifted lighters in the past and had experimented with setting fires while in foster care.
'It was not me'
The two detectives do most of the talking in the tape. They repeatedly press Rose to be honest with them and explain why he claims not to remember exactly what he did and where he went after he walked outside his apartment to smoke a cigarette the night of the fire.
"Something bad happened, and you choose not to bring it up and not talk about it because you know it's bad," Squire says in the video.
Rose then asks what would happen if investigators found out "it was not me."
"I'm telling the truth. : Why would I set fire to an apartment building where I live? I wouldn't," Rose says.
On the video, Rose rubs his forehead, folds his arms, sniffles, sits with his head in his hands and remains silent for long stretches of time. In a typical exchange, Squire tells Rose that scientists are examining the fire and will be able to say exactly what happened.
"Tell me what happened Thursday night before they tell me," Squire said. "Do you think you can do that?"
"I did not start that fire," Rose answers.
Eventually, Rose tells the detectives he lit a piece of paper on fire outside the building, but that he "thought it was out." He tells them the paper had the phone number of a friend who had come into Rose's workplace, Taco Bell, the previous night.
Rose says he grew upset when he called the number and realized the friend wanted him to buy marijuana. He burned the paper, he said, because he figured he didn't need it any more.
Rose tells the detectives he used a nearby mat to try to put out the fire started by the piece of paper. He declines, however, to put that account in writing.
Around 10:18 p.m., Rose tells the detectives, "I just want to go home." But instead, they arrest him and book him into jail.
The next morning, they pick him up at the jail for more videotaped questioning. As the day goes on, Rose says the entire story about the piece of paper, and about his friend visiting him at work, was a lie.
He then maintains that he didn't set anything on fire that night. After he came home from work, he says, he smoked a cigarette outside his apartment, went back inside for 10 minutes, went back outside, smoked another cigarette, climbed up to the second floor to see if a neighbor was home, stood there for a few seconds, then came back downstairs.
"I did not start it," Rose says.
"You told us you did," Squire says.
"Why did you say one thing yesterday and something different today?" Weidner asks.
"I didn't know what to say," Rose answers. "I didn't know if it was going to be the truth or going to be a lie."
Jurors are expected to continue watching the videotape thismorning.
Three people died in the fire: Kansas University student Nicole Bingham, electrician Jose Gonzalez and social worker Yolanda Riddle. 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.