Archive for Monday, May 7, 2007

Boardwalk suspect takes stand in own defense

Did you start this fire?’ ‘No, I did not.’

May 7, 2007, 11:06 a.m. Updated May 7, 2007, 3:26 p.m.


Jason Rose buries his head as a surprise witness testifies that Rose told many people about his plans to burn his residence.  Rose, pictured on Monday at the Lawrence-Douglas County District Court, is charged with killing three people and injuring seven more in the Oct. 7, 2005, fire at Boardwalk Apartments.

Jason Rose buries his head as a surprise witness testifies that Rose told many people about his plans to burn his residence. Rose, pictured on Monday at the Lawrence-Douglas County District Court, is charged with killing three people and injuring seven more in the Oct. 7, 2005, fire at Boardwalk Apartments.

Jason Rose just finished testifying in his own defense during his trial on murder and arson related to the 2005 Boardwalk Apartments fire.

"Did you start this fire?" defense attorney Ron Evans asked him.

"No, I did not," Rose answered.

"You swear that to this jury?" Evans asked.

"Yes," Rose said.

During about 40 minutes of testimony, Rose told jurors that he made up his confession to police that the jury watched on videotape last week. In the videotape, Rose tells detectives after hours of interrogation and several changed stories that he went to the second floor of the building and set fire to a box full of birthday cards and photographs.

"I thought if I thought of something that they would believe, they would leave me alone," Rose said on the stand today.

Rose also denied to jurors that he ever had a problem with setting fires and said he had never been in trouble for starting fires in foster care.

On cross-examination, prosecutor Amy McGowan asked Rose to take jurors through all the things he said to police during his interview and point out which statements were lies. In the end, McGowan asked whether the only thing he told police the truth about was that he'd worked at Taco Bell that night, put $10 of gas in his care, arrived home at 11:30 p.m., and watched TV inside his apartment.

"That's what you want the jury to believe?" she asked.

"Yes," Rose answered.

Earlier, testimony in a murder and arson trial this morning centered on a woman's claim that she overheard the defendant saying he planned to set a spectacular fire as soon as he moved out of foster care and got his own apartment.

"He said that once he moves out into his own place, he's going to set it on fire," witness Emily Robinson said, describing a statement she says she heard defendant Jason Rose make during a church youth-group meeting a few months before the October 2005 fire at Lawrence's Boardwalk Apartments. "He said it would be the biggest, most beautiful fire he had seen."

Robinson, 21, testified that Rose made that statement amid a group of four people in summer 2005 at Lawrence's Victory Bible Church. But Rose's defense attorney is challenging the story and said Robinson is "alone" in claiming she heard Rose make the statement.

Robinson didn't take her story to police after the fire, which killed three people, injured seven people seriously, and destroyed the block-long building where Rose lived. Her account only came to light in February during Rose's first trial, after she made an online posting in The Journal-World's online reader-reaction under the name "truth_society." That trial ended in mistrial after prosecutors tried to introduce her previously unknown testimony.

Asked why she didn't come forward sooner, Robinson said it was partly because she didn't want the attention and partly because she thought other people would have taken the same concerns to police.

Robinson is an employee of Free State Studios, which is owned by The World Company, the same company that owns The Journal-World.

"Working for the media, knowing that I might get exploited, I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I had a lot of fear about what people would think....I also didn't go forward because I thought other people did already."

She made the post, she said, because she wanted to spur conversation about the subject and because she'd noticed nothing about the comments had come out in media accounts of the first trial.

Robinson testified that she told youth leaders about the conversation the same day it happened. But the next witness in the case, Lesley Mutuku, who was a youth leader at the church at the time, testified she recalled Robinson coming to her about it only after the fire happened.


Linda Endicott 8 years ago

If Emily is such a trustworthy person, then why didn't she come forward right away? Why did she have to be "outed" by a public forum?

Why does the youth leader they questioned (under oath as well) say that she did not say anything?

RKLOG 8 years ago

Good thing there is a jury to decide.

dthroat 8 years ago

I find it interesting that the posting on this topic has not matched the pace of the previous articles. Not that I find that a bad thing, as I want this trial to proceed without any further delays. I just wonder if this posters experience has had an effect on some of the regulars here???

Ragingbear 8 years ago

The article claims that Rose testified in his own defense, then went and regurgitated the sub article posted yesterday about the surprise witness that caused the mistrial. I think the editors didn't have their morning coffee, yet again.

Sigmund 8 years ago

No I think the editors are trying to avoid the unfair criticism that they might try and play down the role the LJW was forced to play. I think it is better they mention it too often than too little.

Steve Jacob 8 years ago

I think it's kind of interesting that he's facing 1st degree murder and he denies starting the fire. If he confessed, but did not mean to hurt anyone, he for sure gets off without life in prison.

Let the jury decide.

Sigmund 8 years ago

I kind of got the impression that the prosecution felt the first trial was not going well and that is why the last minute witness and retrial. I am not sure this trial is going all that much better even with the blogger on the stand. Of course, I am not there and all I know is what I read here,.

Ragingbear 8 years ago

SRJ, they do not need to prove that he intended to hurt anyone, only start the fire. Or that he did start the fire. Even if he only intended to vandalize an area, the sheer magnitude of the damage would make it a felony anyways. That people died of a result of that felony makes it murder. Intent has virtually no grounds in this case.

Mike Blur 8 years ago

Ragingbear, the "sub article" you are referring to was posted THIS morning at 11:06 am, NOT yesterday as you assert. Emily Robinson testified THIS morning. If what you say is true, the how can the "regurgitated sub article" posted "yesterday" contain testimony from today?

Get your facts straight before you assail anyone. Bears do not look good with egg on their face.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

It seems to me that Emily Robinson is lying. She claimed that she told the youth leaders the same day he supposedly made the statement, yet no one but her seems to remember this? If there was a group of people he said this to, then why is it that no one but her seems to have heard it?

And she never went to prosecutors with this supposed info...she only posted it, in what she thought would be a totally anonymous forum. If the LJW hadn't told what was posted, and by whom, she apparently still wouldn't have come forward.

Not credible at all to me.

Maybe she's after her own fifteen minutes of fame...

Mike Blur 8 years ago

Don't be so quick to throw Emily under the bus. She may be lying, but then again consider for a second, if she is indeed telling the truth. If what she says is true, then the youth leaders would look bad for failing to act upon her statement.

I'd look at it from all angles before calling one person or another a liar. This trial is a hot potato right now, and it's difficult to determine that ANYONE is wholly credible right now. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the week unfolds.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

Well, perhaps, mike...

It could be one of those things where she heard a couple of words, embellished the rest in her mind, and now is thoroughly convinced that she heard the whole thing.

It happens all the time. Usually it's called gossip. This time it's called testimony.

rousseau108 8 years ago

"Did you start this fire?" defense attorney Ron Evans asked him. "No, I did not," Rose answered. "You swear that to this jury?" Evans asked. "Yes," Rose said.

Well, I guess that settles the whole issue. If the suspect says he didn't start the fire, I guess we're supposed to believe him. Good work, Ron Evans.

Baille 8 years ago

Your analysis is incorrect, Ragingbear. Felony murder requires more than just a simple felony. I would say more but I don't want to get outed by the DA and the ljworld.

Ragingbear 8 years ago

If you noticed the pattern that the defense is trying to use, you will see that this kid is clearly guilty.

He confessed because he was pressured... If you don't believe that, He didn't intend to start a fire, If you don't believe that, He didn't intend for anyone to be hurt by the fire, If you don't believe that, He didn't do anything, If you don't believe that, He isn't responsible because he had a hard childhood and ADD as a kid, If you don't believe that, The fire was started by space aliens in a conspiracy with the communist, the real perpetrators of 9/11 and Hitler's brain that was frozen and put inside a computer.

Let us not forget other circumstances that seem to be forgotten here.

  1. He lied to the investigators right off the bat.
  2. He misled investigators several different times,
  3. He did in fact have a recorded history of fires in foster care.
  4. Several witnesses claim that he was at least around during the disturbance an hour earlier, which may or may not have played a role. Yet he claimed he was not there.
  5. He has continued to hand investigators lie after lie ever since.

So even if he didn't actually do it (as unlikely as that may be), he has aided the real perpetrator by his constant lies and misleading statements while the other person managed to slip through the cracks. You know what that is called? Accessory to Arson, up to 86 counts of it. Accessory to 3 counts of murder,obstruction of justice, impeding an investigation, and several other little laws that could make him see the next 40 years behind bars anyways.

Mat Brownrigg 8 years ago

Knowing Emily personally, I can assure you that she is not the kind of person to make things up, crazyks. I'm sure my belief in her wont change your mind in the slightest, because you know neither me nor her personally, however. She's just not that kind of person.

50YearResident 8 years ago

We wouldn't be having this trial if they asked him if he started the fire and he said "YES". I don't ever remember having a trial for anyone that "didn't" lie and said, yes I am guilty.

Sigmund 8 years ago

Rose could have easily been charged with Felony Murder. In fact, it was my mistaken impression he had been. In my opinion he should have been.

21-3401. Murder in the first degree. Murder in the first degree is the killing of a human being committed: (a) Intentionally and with premeditation; or (b) in the commission of, attempt to commit, or flight from an inherently dangerous felony as defined in K.S.A. 21-3436 and amendments thereto. Murder in the first degree is an off-grid person felony.

21-3436. Inherently dangerous felony; definition. (a) Any of the following felonies shall be deemed an inherently dangerous felony whether or not such felony is so distinct from the homicide alleged to be a violation of subsection (b) of K.S.A. 21-3401, and amendments thereto, as not to be an ingredient of the homicide alleged to be a violation of subsection (b) of K.S.A. 21-3401, and amendments thereto: . . . (11) arson, as defined in K.S.A. 21-3718, and amendments thereto; (12) aggravated arson, as defined in K.S.A. 21-3719, and amendments thereto; . . .

21-3718. Arson. (a) Arson is: (1) Knowingly, by means of fire or explosive: (A) Damaging any building or property which is a dwelling in which another person has any interest without the consent of such other person; ....

21-3719. Aggravated arson. (a) Aggravated arson is arson, as defined in K.S.A. 21-3718 and amendments thereto: (1) Committed upon a building or property in which there is a human being; or . . .

Baille 8 years ago

What is the statutory definition of knowingly, Sigmund? Can be found at KSA 21-3201.

What if he was only burning the box of letters and then accidently caught the porch on fire? Is negligent or reckless behavior enough to meet the State's burden for a charge of felony murder?

Mat Brownrigg 8 years ago

crazyks, did you not read her statement at all? She said she was afraid to come forward, and she thought others were doing so.

Also. Is everyone's memory perfect? Perhaps the youth leader does not remember. I don't know.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

Evidently you believe Emily's memory of the event to be perfect.

I would think this would be something that would stick in the youth leaders minds, especially after the man was charged with arson and felony murder. Kind of like the things that all the adults recalled about Cho after his killing spree.

Well, that's a nice way of shirking your don't come forward because you think that others will do it, and take all the pressure off of you.

According to her own words, she apparently wasn't afraid to tell on him to the youth leaders. What was she so afraid of? Did she have any contact with him after that? Had he threatened her? Then why would she be afraid to tell what she knew? If she thought he was really so dangerous, why hadn't she been speaking out every chance she got, and to whomever would listen?

Mat Brownrigg 8 years ago

First off, I am not saying Emily's memory is perfect. I am simply asking, are you going to expect the youth leader's memory to be?

Not necessarily. After all, they blew it off. When someone tells you something that you don't believe, years later, are you really going to remember such a small event in your life? Don't you have times where people say they told you something, and you cannot remember them doing so? ...or maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm completely off on the whole thing. Maybe after all the time I've known her, I never really got to know who she was. On the other hand. Maybe the youth leader is like me, who when asked something as simple as "What did you have for lunch yesterday?", they have to sit there and seriously think about it. While at the same time, remembering all the pointless details of something else I'll never need to use or even know.

All I can say to that, is that fear is irrational. I don't know her reasoning for waiting, I don't know why she feared him, because I'm not her.

Mat Brownrigg 8 years ago


"...I had a lot of fear about what people would think..."

Mat Brownrigg 8 years ago

I don't think unkindly of anyone on here. We're all just arguing our opinions, and there's no logical reason why that should lead to hate.

She is my friend. We have been friends for about a year.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

Quite frankly, Plovak, I would trust the memory of a person who was an adult at the time over the memory of someone who was a teenager at the time.

Are you kidding? What someone had for lunch, even just yesterday, is considered unimportant to most people. I think I would remember if someone had told me that they thought someone was a pyromaniac. You tend to remember things that are unusual.

Mat Brownrigg 8 years ago

It was merely a common example. My point being, that if someone tells you something that you don't believe, and think is complete bull, are you going to remember it over several years, working with kids all the time?

Or would you want to admit that you heard years in advance of a threat, and blew it off? Most people wouldn't.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

Yeah, even if I thought it was complete bull, I think I'd remember being told. But we're talking about church youth leaders here. What authority did they have to do anything about it anyway?

Most people also wouldn't wait so long to tell someone about it if they truly thought someone else was a danger, either.

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