Court: Judge must reconsider decision in Waterman case

Ruling says Collins was correct to suppress a portion of interview

Posted: Sunday, December 07, 2008

ANCHORAGE - A judge must reconsider her decision to dismiss a murder indictment against a Craig teenager accused of plotting with two former boyfriends to kill her mother.

The Alaska Appeals Court said Friday that Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins must include in her review most of a videotaped statement by then-16-year-old Rachelle Waterman that was suppressed after her trial ended in a hung jury.

Collins threw out the statement, saying it was coerced. Based on the weight of the statement in the state's case, the judge also threw out the indictment.

In its 23-page ruling, the appellate court said Collins was correct to suppress the last portion of the interview, where Waterman told Alaska State Troopers she knew of the plot to kill her mother and did nothing to stop it. The appeals court noted the comments were made after a trooper repeatedly asked if Waterman preferred authorities to tell a jury she cooperated with them or that they say she continuously lied to them.

"We conclude that the statements that Waterman made after those threats were involuntary and therefore must be suppressed," Chief Judge Robert Coats wrote.

Waterman's attorney, Beth Trimmer, said she was satisfied with the decision.

"We consider this a favorable ruling for the defense," Trimmer said. "The court of appeals agreed with Judge Collins that the incriminating portion of the videotape should be suppressed."

The statement was made days after Lauri Waterman's charred body was found Nov. 14, 2004, inside the family's minivan off a remote logging road.

Jason Arrant and Brian Radel, who were 24 years old at the time of the killing, pleaded guilty to murder and testified against Waterman.

Waterman, now 20, is living in Florida, according to her father, Carl "Doc" Waterman. He was unaware of Friday's ruling.

"I'm glad that we at least have a decision," he said.

Prosecutor Stephen West said that if Collins reverses her dismissal, Waterman will automatically be retried. If she doesn't, the state will seek another indictment.

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