Archive for Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Years after Jason Rose’s conviction, Boardwalk arson report still not public; DA says case not closed

January 5, 2011, 2:38 p.m. Updated January 5, 2011, 4:12 p.m.


More than five years after the Boardwalk Apartments fire, key evidence used in the criminal case against Jason Rose has still not been released to the public.

Related document

DA records denial letter ( .PDF )

Related document

ATF records denial ( .PDF )

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson’s office denied a Dec. 22 Journal-World open records request for the arson report created by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The report, along with the testimony of ATF agents, helped prosecutors convict Rose on three counts of manslaughter for setting the fire that leveled the Boardwalk Apartments, killing three and injuring 17 others on Oct. 7, 2005.

Branson’s denial letter cited exemptions in open records laws that allow agencies to withhold records that could interfere with court proceedings. A request by the Journal-World to the ATF was also denied for similar reasons, and an appeal of that decision has been filed. Results from that appeal could take several weeks.

In e-mails to the Journal-World, Branson wrote that the case is still active because Rose has until March 2011 to file an appeal in federal court. Rose, with credit for time served in jail prior to his trial, is eligible for parole in June 2014. He was sentenced to 10 years.

"We denied the request because that document we consider to be work product once it comes into our file, that the original document is either in the hands of ATF or in the court transcript," Branson said Wednesday afternoon. "Our position is that our file remains open until all the appeals or time for appeals has passed. And that is the response that we have provided to ATF."

In September, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Boardwalk fire, Branson spoke at length with the Journal-World about the case.

Keeping the arson report secret baffled Ken Bunting, director of the National Freedom of Information Center.

“It’s absolutely insane,” said Bunting, calling the rationale of the ATF and Branson “a huge stretch.”

Bunting said he has never seen a prosecutor deny records so long after a conviction.

Kansas City media attorney Mark Johnson echoed Bunting’s assessment.

“I think the D.A. is not supported by law,” said Johnson, who stressed the intent of open records laws. “They are to be construed liberally.”

At Rose’s 2007 trial, ATF agents testified that the fire started on a second-floor balcony of the apartment complex and that the fire was intentionally set. Rose, in a confession that he later recanted, told police that he set the fire in that general location.

Rose’s defense attorney called a fire science consultant to the stand at Rose’s trial who criticized the ATF agent’s testimony, citing inconsistencies in the conclusions about where, and how the fire started.

The attorney who handled Rose’s appeals, Kari Nelson, said she did not have the ATF arson report. Rose’s trial attorney, Ron Evans, provided through the Kansas State Board of Indigent Defense, said his office may still have the report, and could possibly provide the document when and if it is located.

The ATF arson report has never been released and is not included in trial transcripts available to the public.


Number_1_Grandma 7 years, 1 month ago

What can you say.....we have an inept DA who doesn't want to be shown up publicly. Who also asked the ATF to cover up for him. You know, code of honor thing.....

kernal 7 years, 1 month ago

I take it you clicked on the exemptions in open records law highlighted in the story, read through it, and the other statutes referrenced, to arrive at your comment?

mdfraz 7 years, 1 month ago

So instead of responding to the question about whether you read and/or understand the exemption you cite quotes from two people. Those two people could be correct in their interpretation. They could also have an ax to grind, especially since Mr. Bunting would mostly likely err on the side of disclosing documents (see his job title).

Without knowing every detail, withholding records for a few more months until the appeal time runs doesn't really seem to smack of "insanity". My guess is the thought is to prevent any kind of taint if/when an appeal is filed on Rose's behalf. In fact, if Branson released the documents and somehow that fact was used against the state's case in an appeal, I'd argue Branson would have failed in his duty as DA. If the appeal time runs and Branson doesn't comply with open records requests, THEN there might be a gripe.

kef104 7 years, 1 month ago

Charles Branson is a good man and cares greatly about justice. While it may be unusual to keep records sealed this long, he is not wanting to risk anything being tainted for an appeal. Basically, he wants to be sure Rose remains locked up. Waiting an extra 3 months is not a big deal.

How about an article about Branson's efforts to help the little guy when it is needed.

I was once needlessly sued by an insurance company and needed to fine an Attorney fast. I spent an entire day calling everyone in town and not only did he return my call, he was the only one who was willing to make time for me at the end of his day. He reviewed my paperwork over night and the next day assured me I was fine. He called the out of state insurance company letting them know he was involved and that their lawsuit was not legally supportable. They immediately determined they had made a mistake and I never heard from them again. He was too kind to even accept payment.

Trust him for 3 more months. You can then review the facts and judge fairly. Everyone wins and Rose is more likely to remain where he belongs.

kef104 7 years, 1 month ago

I really need to proofread. Hope you enjoyed the they typo. If I could have fined the attorneys for the insurance agency that would have worked as well. The correction is as follows: I was once needlessly sued by an insurance company and needed to find an Attorney fast.

kef104 7 years, 1 month ago

I wish I claim the second typo was a planed joke, but alas, I am having one on those days. Here's to tomorrow.

Steve Jacob 7 years, 1 month ago

I never heard of any real evidence Rose meant to hurt/kill, so the death penalty was way overboard. Plus, with the death penalty hanging over you, you get the best public defenders.

BruceWayne 7 years, 1 month ago

so as long as the LJW is demanding we all be open and lay our cards on the table...why is Dolph and the LJW suddenly all about Buffalo Bob? What has he promised Dolph in exchange for all the support and free advertising?

Bob Forer 7 years, 1 month ago

What is Charlie hiding. How in the hell will revelation of the document endanger the conviction, unless he is wrongfully withholding exculpatory evidence?

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