Prosecutors can use statements a Craig girl made to Alaska State Troopers last fall when she stands trial next year on charges alleging she conspired to kill her mother, a Juneau judge has ruled.
Rachelle Waterman, who turned 17 in August, has been in jail since Nov. 19, five days after her mother, 48-year-old Lauri Waterman, was killed. She faces charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, although she was representing Craig High School in a volleyball tournament in Anchorage the weekend of her mother's death.
Her court-appointed attorney, Assistant Public Advocate Steven Wells, argued at a Ketchikan hearing Aug. 22 that Waterman's statements to troopers, which led to her arrest, should be suppressed because they were made involuntarily. Late last week, Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins, who was assigned the case, denied the motion.
"Ms. Waterman did not explicitly confess to criminal activity during her interviews," Collins wrote. But there were inconsistencies in her statements to troopers, she added. She also found that the defense conceded it was likely the grand jury found her statements sufficient to support that indictment.
Collins also denied a motion by Wells to dismiss the indictment.
Two men, Jason Arrant of Klawock and Brian Radel of Thorne Bay, both 24 at the time of the killing, agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder in the case and testify in Rachelle Waterman's trial. The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 17 in Craig.
"The audio- and videotaped interview process clearly reflects that Rachelle Waterman is intelligent and articulate," Collins wrote. Waterman was told her rights, suffered no physical deprivation or mistreatment, and she never attempted to end the two-hour interview in question, Collins wrote.
The judge also rejected the testimony of child psychologist Marty Beyer, who testified for the defense that because of her age, the part of her brain that controls reasoning is still developing, limiting her ability to make decisions about consequences.
Because the youth was in shock over her mother's death, her self-confidence was weakened when troopers told her they thought she was lying, the psychologist testified.
Collins gave little weight to Beyer's testimony, she wrote, noting the absence of standardized tests to measure the defendant's intelligence to support the findings.
The judge agreed that juveniles are more likely to be influenced than adults. "It does not, however, render all juvenile confessions involuntary."
Collins also noted that Beyer testified that Waterman's poor body image contributed to her suggestibility. When Beyer was asked if she was aware of nude photos that Waterman apparently sent to Arrant and how that could be reconciled with a poor body image, the psychologist said she found it an interesting question. She would have asked Waterman about the photos if she had known about them, Beyer added.
Waterman told the psychologist she had no sexual relationship with Arrant or Radel, Collins wrote. The judge noted that the defendant admitted to troopers that she had had oral sex once each with Arrant and Radel. Investigators also found evidence of e-mail exchanges between Arrant and Waterman discussing marriage plans.
Collins wrote that Waterman described herself as a "computer nerd." She posted journal entries on the Internet before her arrest, and her case received international attention.
Tony Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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