Archive for Friday, May 4, 2007

Rose changes stories in video

Defendant denies, then admits, starting fire outside apartment

May 4, 2007


6News video: Jurors watch video-taped interrogation in day 3 of Jason Rose trial

Hours of questions, followed by hours of denials in day three of the trial for the man accused of setting the deadly Boardwalk Apartment Fire. All day jurors viewed the video-taped police interrogation of Jason Rose. Enlarge video

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.

Changing statements

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.


Jamesaust 10 years, 6 months ago

Well, this does remind me of the question I asked the other day - wasn't there a defense contention that Rose might have started A fire but did not start a fire TO the building. Its pretty thin given the contextual evidence.

That said, assuming evidence of a limited mental capacity, and what apparently are hours and hours of confrontational questioning, there's considerable precedent in other cases of documentedly innocent people making a confession just to stop the continuing interrogation.

Isolated to itself, the video may cut both ways. But the context - past history, possession of relevent flammable materials, emotionally disturbance that same day, generalized bizarre and unusual responses from Rose to police - is fairly damning. If Rose's defense is to be successful in avoiding a felony murder conviction, it'll have to focus less on the obvious need to chip away or disprove all this contextual stuff and focus precisely on showing that if Rose started a fire out in the yard that he never intended to set fire to the building and that it spread to the building out of carelessness. If so, while Rose still has a moral responsibility, but he avoids being held to a felonious criminal responsibility.

What I still would like to know (are you listening LJworld?) is what knowledge the State of Kansas had about Rose's predilections while he was still in their care (just before they set him loose)? I believe there's a reasonable chance that the State knew or should have known him to be disturbed and did not see that he received the treatment he needed while still a minor (just while a minor - I doubt any knowledge would have been sufficient to keep him as an adult, but then if had been treated as a minor he might have been better by the time he was an adult).

friend_of_victim 10 years, 6 months ago

Hey James- Did I miss something? Who said that the fire was started in the yard? I thought that this arson was started in the center of the building. And, as a response to a prior post (which I replied to), when you intentionally commit a felony and another felony occurs in response, then it is considered a felony. Here, we have felony arson coupled with burning bodies; you have felony murder. By the way, you should stop being part of the problem! The state is not to blame, nor is LJW. Jason Allen Rose is to blame! He started this fire. He was proud of it! He stayed there and watched it. Yes, there is obvious mental illness there but that doesn't warant an excuse. It is people like you that excuse and glamorize "being a tortured soul" that are causing this country to produce these maniacs. When did lower the bar this low? When did we stop making people be accountable for their actions?

TheGoldenBoy 10 years, 6 months ago

Hey Rose, Next time, if there is a next time, exercise your rights. You do have the right to remain silent and you do have the right to counsel. Those rights are a lot to have! One more thing, don't ever admit guilt-make them prove it!

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