Closing arguments commence in arson trial

After 18-week trial, jurors will decide fate of Jackson and Waterman

awileman@sierra star.comApril 29, 2014 

Allison Waterman and Kenneth Jackson

After a four month jury trial, prosecuting attorney Sally Moreno in the Jackson and Waterman arson trial presented her closing arguments Monday before Madera Superior Court Judge Dale Blea.

Kenneth Jackson, 41, and Allison Waterman, 46, both of Yosemite Lakes Park, were arrested June 25, at the scene of a small vegetation fire close to their home on East Revis Circle. The two were arrested in connection to a rash of fires started in Yosemite Lakes Park and the surrounding areas.

In what Craig Collins, Jackson's defense attorney, called one of the longest trial cases he has seen in his career, jurors have sat through months of deliberation and heard countless hours of testimony. Testimony was heard from several Cal Fire investigators, forensic specialists and friends of the defendants testifying to the cause of the fires and the whereabouts of Jackson and Waterman during the fires. All of which will play a vital part in the decisions of each of the 12 jurors consisting of mainly middle aged and senior citizens.

Evidence discussed during Moreno's closing arguments included visual evidence gathered by several agencies including Cal Fire and the Department of Justice who positioned video surveillance to help locate the potential arsonists. According to testimony the surveillance equipment was set up to monitor the roads as a way to systematically eliminate potential suspects and distinguish what vehicles were on the road in the surrounding areas at the times the fires started.

During Monday's proceedings Deputy District Attorney Sally Moreno made it clear to the jurors that she was given the burden of proof in this case but she was not shrinking from that burden.

During Monday's three hours of closing arguments Moreno reviewed, in detail, more than 20 fires that took place between June 8, and June 25, pinpointing each piece of evidence as to why the jurors could reasonably infer that Jackson and/or Waterman were near the scene of the crime, including evidence that had been improperly gathered by the investigating teams.

Moreno claims that although much of the evidence stacked up against Waterman and Jackson is circumstantial, through reasonable inference it was clear to her Waterman and Jackson were with out a doubt responsible for the rash of fires.

"This has been a very long trial. I have the burden of proof and you have heard it more than once. I am confident when you evaluate the evidence you will find these defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Jackson and Waterman sat expressionless as Moreno touched briefly on the surveillance accusations of the trial referring to Jackson vehicle

Moreno asked the jurors to make a critical analysis of the evidence presented throughout the four month trial, as it pertains to defendants.

"Every circumstance confirms the charges as charged in this case. When you go back to deliberate. Take this evidence. Poke this evidence, twist this evidence, manipulate this evidence, listen to what you need to listen to, look at what you need to look at. Circumstantial evidence is difficult to manufacture and it all points in the direction of these two defendants."

As of press time Jackson and Waterman's attorneys had not been given the opportunity to present closing argument. Defense was expected to give their closing arguments Tuesday afternoon.

Jackson and Waterman maintain the defense that the pre-determined notion of arson had been reached and that the investigators collaborated together and lacked proper investigative techniques when looking into what actually started the fires. The defense claims the prosecution is relying heavily on circumstantial and mishandled evidence.

In several instances throughout the trial cigarettes were thought to be the igniting source but according to evidence gathered those cigarettes either lacked DNA matching the Jackson or Waterman or had no traces of DNA at all. Something the prosecutors attributed to the extreme temperatures of the fires.

Jackson and Waterman's attorneys also claims the prosecution lacks credible visual evidence.

In March, Jackson's attorney Craig Collins requested a mistrial in the case over mishandled evidence. The motion that was denied by Judge Blea.

Jackson's charges include 21 counts of arson (20 counts of arson of wildlands and one count of arson of an inhabited structure), along with one count of battery on a peace officer, and one count of resisting arrest.

Waterman was charged with 10 counts of arson including conspiracy to commit arson of wildlands of an inhabited area including a rash of eight fires in three days.

Many of the fires started off of Revis Road, including one that burned 60 acres and a structure June 12.

There is not time restraint on the deliberation of the jurors although it is thought that a verdict could be given by the end of the week.

In the meantime Waterman and Jackson are still be held on $500,000 bail.

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