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- Newarson trial for Rose begins today (04-30-07)
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- Commentto story "Jurors watch taped police interrogation of Rose"(02-09-07)
A Douglas County jury is now deliberating whether Jason Rose was responsible for setting the Boardwalk Apartment Fire in 2005 that claimed the lives of three Lawrence residents.
Attorneys spent Wednesday afternoon making their closing arguments after a morning of testimony from both defense and prosecution witnesses. Amy McGowan, assistant district attorney, focused part of her closing testimony for the state on Rose's history with setting fires - a history Rose alluded to in a disputed police interrogation - leading up to his actions on Oct. 7, 2005, the day she said Rose started the blaze.
"Fire is something that's kept in a very protected place for him, it's something he can't talk about," she said in Douglas County District Court. "...It's something that got exposed for some reason on October 7."
Ron Evans, Rose's attorney, countered that the state hadn't produced evidence that directly linked Rose to the fire, aside from a confession from Rose that came in the midst of several hours of repeated questioning from detectives on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11, 2005. It was a situation, Evans said, that Rose sought to escape by giving a false confession. Defense experts said had behavior and thought patterns of someone much younger than Rose's 21 years, and had a history to confessing to crimes he hadn't committed.
"Jason learned early on that you need to please the supervisor, the authority figure that's in front of you," Evans said in his closing argument. "That's what he was trying to do on October 10 and October 11."
Both attorneys spoke extensively about Rose's interview with police following the fire, which has been a key element of the case.
McGowan said the defense's contention that Rose's admission came under duress was merely a smokescreen to his pattern of lying about events, only to tell the truth later on.
"Very simply, what that is is the horse is out of the barn and they've got to figure out how to get it back in," she said.
McGowan also reiterated the testimony of fire investigators, who insisted that the only could only have been set on purpose.
Evans attempted to discredit the testimony of several prosecution witness, such as Emily Robinson, who testified that she once heard Rose predict that someday he would set a massive fire. Evans said several witnesses to the supposed conversation reported they had no recollection that Rose made such a statement.
"I would submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that you have a lot of reasonable doubt in this case," Evans said.
Rose stands accused of several counts of murder, arson and battery for the 2005 fire.
The apartment fire took the lives of Kansas University student Nicole Bingham, electrician Jose Gonzalez and social worker Yolanda Riddle.
Earlier in the day, one of Rose's former Lawrence High School teachers testified that Rose was a student who wanted to please everyone.
David Tenpenny, who had Rose in his automotive classes at LHS for three years, said was the type of student who was always the first student to arrive to class and the last student leave.
"Jason was not an A student ... but he was that person in your office, in your classroom before everyone else," Tenpenny said.
On cross examination, Tenpenny acknowledged that he believed Rose knew the difference between right and wrong.
Yolanda Jackson, a Kansas University professor in clinical child psychology who has done an assessment of Rose, said Rose had an IQ of 87, below average for intelligence.
She portrayed Rose as someone who sought approval from adults and could sometimes tell adults what they want to hear to gain that approval.
"That emotional delay he has ... makes it very hard for Jason to be accurate or reliable," she said.
Jackson did say under cross examination by Amy McGowan, assistant district attorney that Rose has examples in his background where he told lies when he got in trouble, and that his record suggested that he did know the difference between truth and lies.
Jackson was the last witness the defense called.
Prosecutors called one more witness on Wednesday.
Lawrence Police detective Lance Flachsbarth interviewed Rose's foster father Robert Kidder at 11:45 p.m. on Oct. 10, 2005, shortly after the fire. From that interview, Kidder said Rose was someone who often had a lighter, according to Flachsbarth's testimony.
Ron Evans, Rose's attorney, asked the detective whether Kidder had been sleeping before the late night interview, or if he had said he had taken a sleeping pill. Flachsbarth said he didn't know.