Judge reschedules murder trial for Craig teen

Delay gives defense attorneys time to look for, disclose evidence

Posted: Friday, July 08, 2005

A 16-year-old Craig girl will wait until next year to stand trial on charges that she conspired in her mother's murder last November.

Rachelle Waterman was scheduled to stand trial Aug. 22, four days before she turns 17. Thursday, Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins rescheduled the trial for Jan. 17, after learning the defense is still looking for evidence to be disclosed by prosecutors.

"I don't like continuing the trial until January," Collins said. But she said it is important attorneys share their evidence with enough time to prepare.

She said a postponement is not good for the defendant, who is in custody, or for the community or the sake of justice.

"Evidence tends to become stale," she said. "Memories become stale."

The trial is scheduled to be held in Craig, a Prince of Wales Island community 56 miles northwest of Ketchikan. Waterman's court-appointed attorney, Steven Wells, has motioned to move the trial someplace other than Craig or Ketchikan.

Waterman faces seven adult felony charges in the death of her 48-year-old mother, Lauri Waterman - first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, second-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, first-degree vehicle theft and tampering with physical evidence.

Two 25-year-old co-defendants, Jason Arrant of Klawock and Brian Radel of Thorne Bay, agreed in June to plead guilty to first-degree murder in Lauri Waterman's death in the early hours of Nov. 14, 2004. Rachelle Waterman was representing Craig High School at a volleyball tournament in Anchorage that weekend.

As part of the agreement that dismissed other felony charges, Arrant and Radel agreed to testify against Rachelle Waterman.

In May, Collins ordered Ketchikan District Attorney Stephen West to turn over potential evidence from Waterman's computer hard drive. Thursday Wells said he had not yet received the evidence.

Both attorneys appeared at the hearing by telephone - West from Ketchikan and Wells from Bethel.

Collins told Waterman, who was brought to court from the Lemon Creek Correctional Center, that she has a right to a speedy trial. In response to the judge's questions about accepting the postponement, Waterman answered three times, "Yes, your honor."

Collins scheduled an Aug. 22 pretrial hearing, at which Wells plans to argue to allow an expert witness at trial to testify about effects of coercive questioning of juvenile suspects.

Both West and Wells said Ketchikan would be a more convenient location for the hearing, but Collins said that wasn't the determining factor.

"It's always my preference, if a case is assigned to a community, to hold the trial and hearings in the community if at all possible," she said.

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

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