State seeks to reinstate teen's indictment

Prosecutor disputes judge's finding that investigator lied

Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2006

Alaska prosecutors are asking for a chance to argue that Rachelle Waterman's murder conspiracy indictment be reinstated, along with the statements she made that prosecutors say implicate the teenager in her mother's slaying.

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"The court misapplied the facts" in ruling Waterman's statements involuntary, Ketchikan District Attorney Stephen West wrote in a motion filed Friday afternoon. The motion seeks reconsideration of a ruling that prohibits a video of a two-hour police interrogation from being used against Waterman. The questioning took place on Nov. 19, 2004, five days after 48-year-old Lauri Waterman was killed in a remote area of Prince of Wales Island. During the interrogation Rachelle Waterman, then-16-years-old, said she knew her mother could be killed and did nothing about it. Shortly after the interrogation the Craig girl was charged with murder.

Two Prince of Wales men, Jason Arrant and Brian Radel, agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder of Lauri Waterman and testified at her daughter's trial. At the trial, the prosecution alleged the girl was guilty of murder and other felonies as a conspirator. The trial ended in a hung jury, three weeks after Waterman's Juneau trial ended with a hung jury, which favored acquittal 10-2.

Three weeks later, on March 7, Collins ruled trial testimony and evidence raised new questions about the videotape of the Nov. 19 interrogation that had been shown to jurors. Collins didn't release the defendant from custody, but lowered her bail while giving the state a chance to keep its case alive. Prosecutors could seek a new grand jury indictment, Collins wrote in her order, but they would have to do it without the Nov. 19 interrogation.

"The Nov. 19 interview was the centerpiece of the grand jury case against Ms. Waterman," Collins wrote in support of her ruling from the bench.

Deputy Alaska Attorney General Susan Parkes announced West's filing for reconsideration Friday, saying Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins had ruled on the issue without notice, failing to give the state a chance to argue its position.

Collins scheduled a status hearing in the case to be held Monday afternoon.

Defense attorney Steven Wells said Friday by telephone that he was aware of the state's motion, but wasn't prepared to comment.

"I would like a chance to respond," he said, although he couldn't say if he would file a written response or reply in court Monday.

At the March 7 hearing where Collins had announced her decision, she told West he would be able to refile criminal information for charges later in the day to keep Rachelle Waterman in custody.

"I don't feel comfortable holding people without charges," she said.

At the afternoon hearing she scheduled for arraignment, West had not filed new charges, but asked for Collins to stay her order to give him a chance to decide if he would appeal her ruling.

Collins agreed to postpone when her order would take effect, but she lowered Rachelle Waterman's bail from $150,0000 to $50,000. Instead of requiring the total in cash, she allowed the defendant's father, Carl "Doc" Waterman, to post $5,000 for his daughter's release.

The girl left the Lemon Creek Correctional Center the next day. Except for daytime court appearances, it was the first time she had been out of the state prison in more than 15 months.

In suppressing the police interrogation, Collins wrote that in her initial ruling to allow the statements, she found the officers were truthful with Rachelle Waterman. At trial, though, Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Randy McPherron testified that he repeatedly lied to the defendant about the evidence investigators had accumulated against her, Collins wrote.

"Some of the lies the officers repeated to Ms. Waterman are especially problematic," Collins wrote. She pointed out that McPherron said Radel and Arrant told investigators Rachelle Waterman told the pair which window of the garage would be open to gain access to her Craig home where her mother would be home alone.

"It was conceded at trial this was not the window Radel used to break into the house," Collins wrote. "Therefore, this information did not aid the break-in. Yet it was used, at grand jury and trial, as the cornerstone for the theories of conspiracy and aiding and abetting."

West wrote that this was not the cornerstone of the state's trial case, although it was identified to the grand jury. "Sgt. McPherron did not lie to the defendant in the Nov. 19 interview," he wrote.

"Even if Sgt. McPherron lied, the use of trickery or deception to get a suspect to confess is permissible and is not sufficient by itself to make a confession involuntary," West wrote later in his motion.

Collins made the same point in her March 7 ruling. She also noted that she initially ruled that Doc Waterman's absence from the interrogation in itself did not make the interview involuntary. But she wrote the trial made more facts about the interrogation clear.

"On the balance, this court has become convinced the Nov. 19 interview should be suppressed," she wrote.

Collins has sentenced Jason Arrant to serve 50 years in prison with another 49 years suspended and Brian Radel to serve 99 years in prison for the murder.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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