The Confession Tapes (2017) s01e04 Episode Script

Trial by Fire

[crackling] [woman] To this day, I still I still feel people hanging onto my legs and my arms, hanging onto my body to keep me from running.
Charging through the halls, knowing that my daughter [sighs] my daughter was in the house.
[man] There were all kinds of stories that were afloat during that time.
The rumors about Karen, and also the rumors about suicide.
[man 2] The brutality of the case is unique.
How could we have a mother kill her daughter by burning her as she slept? As jurors, they couldn't get their head around that until they saw the proof.
[woman] I did not start that fire.
[man] Okay.
Either that or you don't want to believe that right now.
If I go into a house wanting to find arson, I will find things that are suggestive of arson.
[man] There are some things that we do that our bad mind causes us to do that our good mind would never accept.
But in our bad mind, just about anything can happen.
They use very coercive psychological techniques.
She kept maintaining the story that she probably lost her mind, and that she didn't recall if she set the fire or not, but she probably did.
[man] In our system of justice, if you're convinced that there's two valid explanations for the same event, that's reasonable doubt.
[woman] The truth is that I had absolutely nothing to do with the fire.
I didn't see the gas can, I didn't touch the gas can.
I went to school with her, so I've known her 40 years.
[Payne] Karen was very trusting.
Very outgoing, very friendly to everybody.
She loved her kids.
She spent a lot of time with them, played games with them.
My daughter was my whole life.
Both my kids were.
I was especially close to Robin, and we were inseparable.
I remember we used to play this little mailbox game.
We would leave different little love notes to each other and she'd say, "Mail lady here for you!" And Robin was attached to my hip until she was, like, 13 years old.
[Boes] My home is normally in Zeeland, Michigan.
I live there with my family.
I got up that morning and had coffee with my husband, as we always did, and just sat and watched the news.
Then I started doing laundry.
We were gonna go on vacation.
Robin, my daughter, was upstairs.
I heard her wake up and start walking around.
And I went out the front door.
So I got in my truck, then I went to my husband, Wayne, his body shop, just about 45 seconds away from the house.
I left from there and went to my girlfriend's house.
She got there right before nine o'clock 'cause she didn't want to be late.
[Payne] Then we drove to Grand Rapids, we went to a Payless shoe store and we looked at the sign and it said it didn't open until ten.
It was 9:30.
So then we were gonna leave and go to the mall.
We were pulling out of the driveway and we got a phone call saying there was a fire at her house.
- Ottawa 911.
- [woman caller] I'm in Zeeland right now.
I'm driving to work and I see a house smoldering from the top.
[operator] What address is it at? [caller] I can't see an address.
I'm on Williams Street.
What color is the house? [caller] It's brick with a like a burgundy siding on it.
- [operator] We'll get somebody out there.
- [caller] All right, thanks.
Bye.
[Boes] We immediately turned around.
I just couldn't believe my ears, what I was hearing.
My son had told us that my daughter was in the house.
I felt like I was, you know I had to get there as quick as I could.
[dispatcher] Holland Township Station 2, on assist to Zeeland City on a house fire.
All additional Zeeland City personnel, report directly to the scene.
[faint siren wailing] [crackling] [Payne] We pulled up to the scene.
She jumped out of the car and started running towards the house.
Wayne said, "No, Karen, don't go there," and pulled her away.
[Boes] All I remember is just the sheer pain of knowing that my daughter was in the house.
They finally gave me a shot of Valium and sat me on the ground so I wouldn't run towards the house.
It was a short time later that my daughter came out on the stretcher.
[moans] That was the end of her little life.
[radio static crackles] [dispatcher] Zeeland Fire is reporting the fire is knocked down on Williams Street.
When I arrived, my father's department was already on scene Holland Township, Station 3.
[Libby] I was tasked with a thermal imaging camera to go upstairs into the residence to look for hotspots.
[lantern clicks] [Libby] I proceeded up through the stairway and entered the victim's bedroom.
There was a lot of debris on the floor.
Then I proceeded to look for hotspots.
When I did that, I found a five-gallon gas can.
[faint sloshing] I actually turned around and I asked my father, I said, "Hey, look at this," and he told me to throw it out the window.
Something went up in a flag in my head and I thought that that was not the best idea, so I put it right back at my feet where I found it.
Then I called for a sheriff to come into the house and take a look at it.
It's just not normal to have a gas can in your bedroom.
[firefighter] Williams Street Command requesting investigators to the scene here.
[dispatcher] 10-4, Command.
9-48.
[Libby] If you're calling in a fire investigator, you have some suspicion that it might be arson.
Never would think in a million years that this would happen.
[Essenburg] I'm not sure who came, some police officer came.
And then Karen took a few of us away and said that it's rumored that Robin committed suicide.
And she was very distraught.
They questioned me, like at 10:30 that night of the fire.
First they thought Robin did it.
And Karen thought it was, you know, accidental that Robin did it.
And then the next day, I hear that they were looking at her as a suspect.
[man] They found the gas can in the bedroom.
There was evidence of an arson fire, an accelerant, that caused the fire and burned her house down.
So, what happened? There's a reason to want to know what happened, and her daughter's passed away.
You know, "Did Robin do this herself? Well, what do you know, Karen?" [Hulsing] Interestingly enough, on July 30, the day that Robin was found, Karen was interviewed.
And briefly, by way of And it was a recorded audio cassette.
[detective] Karen, I want to apologize that we have to talk to you, but unfortunately, we do.
- We don't know - [Boes] I understand.
[detective] you know, we don't know what happened and we gotta try to find out.
And Detective Harris from the state police was talking to her and mentioned something about the gas can, and then Karen said, "You didn't find it in her bedroom, did ya?" [Harris] It's our understanding that you had been missing a gas can? [Boes] Yeah, but I can't imagine she would have done that.
You didn't find it in her room, did you? - [Harris] Yes, we did.
- [Boes] Oh, my God.
Oh, don't tell me this! That was not told to her.
Karen volunteered that, and certainly that's where the gas can was found.
[Boes] I went down to the police station to write a statement.
They told me they wanted to find out what happened to my daughter.
And they said, "That's what you want, too.
" And absolutely, that's all I wanted, was to find out what happened to my dear daughter.
And they said, "We're gonna figure this out together.
" [Essenburg] Well, I believe that's when she was interrogated.
I don't even know how many hours it was.
It was unreal.
Over ten hours.
She came voluntarily.
Her husband brought her voluntarily.
There's no indication she was under the influence of alcohol.
There's no indication she was under the influence of any medication.
And they start questioning her and she didn't have a lawyer.
[Boes] They gave me a polygraph test for a length of time.
Then they pulled me out and he asked me how I thought I did and I said, "I have no doubt, you know, that I passed with flying colors, you know?" There was no doubt in my mind whatsoever.
I had nothing to hide.
And it wasn't until the polygraph was being administered that suddenly all the red flags came up.
[Boes] He told me that I failed miserably on the polygraph test.
I just couldn't believe my ears.
And they brought me back into an interrogation room and started questioning me.
[Harris] Knowing the things that we know on the scene, and the evidence that was collected, and I I know you know more about the fire.
I know you were there.
I just want you to try to think.
The heaviness that you have right now is only gonna go away when you're able to talk about this.
Did she do something to try to get you upset that morning? This is all gonna be better once you're able to talk about it.
And that you want to talk about it, and that you want to tell us about it.
There's just something in the way right now.
[Boes] Yes, there is, because I don't have a clue.
[Harris] How did the fire start? [Boes] I don't remember.
- [Harris] But - That I don't know.
[Harris] Okay, I can believe that.
Okay? That you really don't know exactly how it started.
And it got out of hand before you were able to stop it.
But we can get help.
We can help you.
[Boes] Fine, get me help.
[Harris] But we but before that can happen, you have to talk to us.
- [Boes] I don't know - You have to tell us.
You remember things right before and you remember things right after.
I need to know.
I need you to fill in the middle for me.
I know somewhere in your heart, you know what happened, Karen.
The machine really doesn't lie.
It's just a machine.
It has no reason to lie.
- [Boes] I know that, I know that.
I know.
- It just tells certain things.
Now's the time, Karen.
[man] I don't think for one minute when she walked into that room that she thought she was a suspect in the death of her daughter.
[Zessin] In this area, people have a high regard for police authority.
And she felt like, "I have to do what these folks tell me I need to do.
" Hi, Karen.
They said that you had asked about me and I got here about half an hour ago.
- Just to - [Boes] I apparently did it.
[Olney] Okay.
What makes you say that? [Boes] The test.
[Olney] You mind if I just swing the door shut and we just talk for a little bit? - [Boes sighs] I guess that's fine.
- Okay.
[Boes] Chief Olney was he was our neighbor.
Our kids went to school together.
I babysat his children.
We went to church together.
We weren't, like super close as close friends, but very well acquainted, and knew each other, I thought, well enough.
I really had a lot of trust in him.
[Olney] Okay, so you can't find the mirror, so you're getting angry about it.
You think you shouldn't have to go through this stuff.
"Here I am, I'm an adult, I've got a 14-year-old trying to manipulate me.
I've got to take control of the situation somehow.
" [Boes] You know, you guys are looking for answers that I don't know how to answer, Bill.
[Olney] Well, we're all looking for answers, there's no doubt about that.
[Boes] Oh, and I am, too.
But you're the one who has the answers, Karen.
At least you've got more than we do because you were there.
[Boes] I don't know.
You look at statements that are made to her during the course of the interview and it was things you know, "We just want to let you get home, and the sooner you answer these questions" And, you know, and, and the number of times that she denied any involvement, any knowledge of anything that happened to her daughter that day, yet they would not let that be the answer.
[Olney] I don't think for a moment, Karen, that this is something you planned out.
[Boes] Oh, I know.
It's not, Bill.
- And - And I still don't believe I did it.
But everything points to it.
[Olney] Here's the thing, you must be remembering something, otherwise, you would not have failed on those two questions.
[Boes] What do you want me to say? I can't bring anything up.
[Olney] Okay, well I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, that's for sure.
It's in your mind, because that's why the polygraph is telling us that you failed those two questions.
And it's not like you failed them a little bit.
He tells me you failed them just about as - [Boes] Bad as I could.
- [Olney] high as you can.
Yeah.
[Payne] They told her that she flunked her lie detector test, and after a while you just well, you know, start doubting yourself.
[Olney] But you've got to have some detail.
That's what you've gotta figure out, is the detail.
[Boes] I don't know any detail because I don't believe I did it yet.
Okay? I don't have it in my mind at all that I did that.
And I've seen the test, and I know how foolproof they are.
That she was trying to tell them everything she possibly knew, and every stupid detail that she could come up with.
[Fernandez] So you guys got in a fight and she saw a gas can.
And she told you, "What are you gonna do with this?" - And you guys got into - [Boes] No! That isn't how it goes.
- Now don't put words in my mouth.
- [Fernandez] No, I'm just saying, sorry.
- [Boes] No, that isn't how it went.
- Okay.
[Boes] We had been missing the gas can.
It was just almost like a conspiracy.
From the very first, it was Karen.
[Geminder] The gas can had been missing for two weeks.
And they didn't know where it was.
[Boes] We thought the boys took it.
They started the fire in the back yard.
We thought some boys started the fire in the back yard.
[Boes] A couple weeks before the fire that took my daughter's life, we found it was sort of like a campfire in our back yard.
We just noticed that there was firewood, you know, piled up back there.
There was like three little logs.
They were partially burnt.
Then after that point, we just looked all over the place for the gas can.
Could not find it anywhere.
[Fernandez] So you see the gas can there and you get pissed because she was hiding it all along.
- You confront her with that, right? - [Boes] I did not, no! No? So, what happened? I thought it was very, very poor timing on their part to put a person who was very emotionally fragile in a situation of having to discuss issues related to the death of her daughter.
[Boes] At the end of the day, it was quite late.
I felt so hopeless.
I felt alone.
I was just an emotional mess.
[Zessin] I know for a fact, because she told me, "I never in my wildest dreams thought that I was answering questions that would incriminate me.
" [Boes] They put different scenarios out there for me and had me repeat them back to them like I'm in this dream state.
[Olney] I think maybe the thing we gotta think about is if you did dream about doing this, how would it happen? Not saying that it did, but if you did dream [Boes] I can't remember a specific dream, Bill.
And they said, finally, "If you're not sure, then maybe in your dreams, could it, you know, could it have happened?" [Olney] Just concentrate on the dream for a little while.
How did it work its way through? [Boes] I don't remember if I saw the gas can or if I saw it in my dreams afterwards.
After I was told.
- [Olney] Okay.
- Okay.
[Boes] Apparently [sighs] I went upstairs, needed the phone saw the gas can, sloshed it around a little bit.
Apparently must have spread gas around, and lit a candle in her room.
[Olney] Okay.
[Boes] I guess that I just went insane and lost it.
[Payne] She was, you know, so upset, that they ended up bringing her to Holland Hospital Psych Ward.
[Boes] I didn't feel like living anymore.
I knew that if I went home, I was going to commit suicide.
People don't ever want to believe that someone would confess to something they didn't do.
[Satawa] Well, the real problem with that is people confess to things they didn't do all the time.
Imagine the feeling you have driving down the freeway and you look behind you and there's a police car behind you with its lights on, pulling you over.
We all panic.
I mean, we have that anxiety and that stress of an encounter with the police, and you're accused of speeding.
Now imagine a police officer telling you, "We think you set your daughter's bedroom on fire, burned your house down, and killed your daughter on purpose.
" Police officers prey on that natural stress and anxiety.
[Harris] Knowing the things that we know on the scene, and the evidence that was collected and I know you know more about the fire.
I know you were there.
I just want you to try to think.
Police officers target those weaknesses in a suspect to go after them.
[Harris] I know that this is all gonna be better once you're able to talk about it.
And that you want to talk about it, and that you want to tell us about it.
[Satawa] I think it was three or four different people ended up asking her questions and it was on a rotating basis.
All kinds of things were told to Karen that just simply were not true.
They told her they found evidence of gas on her shoes, on her clothes, fingerprints on the gas can.
[Fernandez] You got the gas can.
- They got your fingerprints.
- [Boes] Right.
[Fernandez] You got the fire that started probably when you were there 'cause people witness puts you there around 8:55, 8:50.
You know, around there.
And then they got more.
They got a search warrant.
I'm telling you so you don't think I'm BS-ing you.
It's time to tell the truth.
Now it's important to tell the truth.
She's told things that were simply not true about things that her husband was saying or other family was saying.
[Olney] Now here's the other thing, you know.
Wayne knows what's happened now.
He knows that you haven't passed this test by your own admission.
You just showed him, you know? The charts, look at here.
Look what's happened.
At some point, Wayne has to start wondering about what's gonna happen next.
[Satawa] In Karen's case, they were talking to her again about, "What if you were sleepwalking?" or "What if this happened in a dream?" It's bizarre.
[Harris] Karen, I understand that you're scared to tell me what happened.
[Boes] I don't know what happened.
- [Harris] Why? - In my conscious mind.
[Harris] How about your unconscious mind? [Boes] How am I supposed to know that? And ultimately, after working on them and breaking them down psychologically, you get the suspect to a point where they understand they're not getting out of this.
They can admit to killing someone on purpose, or maybe it was an accident.
[Fernandez] And like I said, there's two choices here, and I'm leaving right now.
Either you did this on purpose, you planned it, you're cold-blooded, or you did it by mistake, and I think it's the second one.
[Boes] Okay.
I did it by mistake.
I know I wouldn't have done that on purpose.
But I do not know how I did it.
Okay? All of these red flags, where we talk about these are the dangers of potential false confessions, almost all of them are present in Karen's case.
We are confident in the charge that we have filed against her today.
[Hulsing] This case was as big as it gets.
This was for all the marbles.
This was, "Did Karen do it? Why did she do it? What evidence do we have that she did do it?" And Robin deserved it to have all the facts laid out.
It is ultimately for the jury to decide whether Karen was involved in the intentional setting of a fire which resulted in the death of her daughter.
[Zessin] It's a "connect-the-dot" case for them, all right? That every single dot followed correctly, okay? That, you know, this fact caused this event.
But in our system of justice, if you're convinced that there's two valid explanations for the same event, that's reasonable doubt.
I told them I knew about the trial.
I'd watched the news before I went.
Kinda had heard the whole story, but didn't hear too much.
I was the last one selected, I do know that.
I do remember that to a T.
I was I was kind of hoping not to be.
But I was the last one selected.
I didn't really know the flow of a courtroom that well.
It was my first experience ever being in a courtroom.
I remember it started with the prosecuting attorney coming up 'cause the prosecutor goes first.
[Hulsing] This fire was an intentionally-set fire fueled by a liquid accelerant, gasoline, that was started outside of Robin's bedroom.
And that Robin could not have started the fire.
[Hulsing] Really, we had a lot of information and it all had to be presented, because I knew, the investigative team knew that unless this case was presented pretty much airtight, it was not going to result in a conviction.
[Hulsing] One week after Robin's death, she told her husband, "There are times that I hated her.
She treated me like" It was very I don't know how to say it.
It was a very surreal thing.
You didn't expect somebody to hit the nail on the head that hard to say directly, you know, those words.
[Boes] The prosecution made up the story.
To me, the whole presentation was just like a horse-and-pony show.
And it was just there to make things look extreme.
They played up this the issue between the daughter and the mom having some, you know, friction.
[Hulsing] We found out that Karen and Robin had a tumultuous relationship.
That Karen didn't like Robin.
She hated her, and she And I'm not just making this up, those were her words.
[Satawa] One of the people who came forward to testify against her was a person that Karen met at AA, and violated the confidentiality of an AA meeting.
She told me that she hated her daughter.
[Essenburg] Robin was a little sweetie, but two years before she died, there were issues.
She was like a 14-year-old going on 18.
[Geminder] Robin was a troubled teen.
She was running around with the wrong crowd.
You know, I know she was into drugs and all that.
She'd threatened to run away several times.
[Essenburg] Karen would sleep, like at the end of the steps from upstairs to make sure she wouldn't leave the house in the middle of the night.
As most 14-year-old adolescents, they want to take charge and they want to do their thing, so naturally, that was where the conflict was.
[Rigg] I think Wayne and Karen at this particular time, were wanting to know about their daughter.
"What can we do?" Robin's relationship was bad with Wayne and Karen both.
[Geminder] After the fire, the police found Robin's diary.
[Satawa] She contacted CPS, Child Protective Services, about the dad.
Not about Karen, but about the dad.
[Satawa] And then, all of this sort of came to a head in the weeks leading up to this fire because the Boeses planned to go on this family vacation.
She was real mad at 'em because they made her go on a camping trip with them.
[Boes] The evening before the fire, she talked to me about wanting to come home from vacation because she had a brand new job, her first job.
And Wayne blew up and got in a great big fight with her.
It was pretty heated.
This all got squashed down by the police, that like the fight never really happened.
[Boes] Yes, I said that I hated my daughter.
Um That was very much out of just trying to express that frustration at the time.
- I hated - [Hulsing] Did you hate your daughter? No, I never stopped loving my daughter.
[Boes] During the interrogation, they asked me if I had any secrets that nobody knows and if I was gonna take this polygraph test, that it was imperative that I just You know, tell the whole truth about everything.
I came out and told them that I had an affair.
It had ended, like, three years previous to that.
Nobody knew about it.
The prosecutor tried to bring it into trial, and the judge told him that it had absolutely nothing to do with what had happened to my daughter.
I found out about the affair the day she was arrested.
And I was totally shocked.
I think as soon as he found out about the affair, you know, he kind of didn't want anything to do with her anymore.
[Zessin] When they came in originally, they came together.
And Wayne was completely onboard with his wife's innocence and lack of involvement in this.
Unconditionally supported her.
And then, I think he began to listen to the police.
Wayne began to buy into it.
It seemed like she had snapped.
- [Hulsing] That who had snapped? - My wife.
And why do you say that? Because it was a whole different demeanor, it was just like a whole different person.
[Zessin] Does she have flaws? Sure, we all have flaws.
But it doesn't cause us to be murderers.
None of us are perfect in any way.
People that have affairs doesn't mean they kill their children.
To me, the whole thing was based on her character.
[Hulsing] What we believe happened is Karen left the house at 8:55 a.
m.
after pouring gasoline in Robin's room as Robin slept.
Ignited the fire Left the house.
The fire was discovered by a neighbor or passerby about five minutes later, and then the fire was extinguished and Robin was found, and ultimately, she passed away from smoke inhalation.
We wanted to verify that.
So Marquardt suggested that we get a PhD expert, and he suggested John DeHaan, who has actually written the book on arson investigation.
A lot of people refer to it as the "bible of fire investigation.
" It's based on what I've actually seen happen in fires and explosions.
By the hundreds, at this point.
Fortunately in this case, the scene was still intact, which five months after the incident, is pretty rare.
And so, I remember, you know, looking to see where there might have been a pattern of damage.
Actually, under the door, and then we put the inner face of the door back up and you could see a burn pattern on the door, going under the door in its closed position.
Well, the door was closed.
When did it get closed? Because there was burn patterns on the door jamb and things like that.
[Hulsing] Because of the fire patterns and the burn patterns, we were able to conclude that the fire started right outside of Robin's bedroom with the door almost closed in its entirety.
I think I testified that there was gasoline poured from outside the door into the room and the gas can was left there.
[DeHaan] The only thing that I could identify that would create that kind of intense fire at that location would be a flammable liquid that ends up getting burned away substantially during the fire.
[Boeve] There was burn evidence in the carpet and in the little piece of wooden trim that showed where the door was to Robin's room while this fire was burning.
That in my mind was some of the most significant evidence that showed how this fire was burning outside of this Robin's room.
I think that the arson evidence admitted against Karen is the junk of all junk science.
[Satawa] She was investigated, and they took these tests that can determine whether or not you had exposure to gasoline or some other accelerant, whether you had exposure to a fire.
[Geminder] They took Karen's clothes, they took her shoes they took her car to test it to see if there was any gasoline in it at all.
All of those were negative as they related to Karen.
They were positive as they related to Robin.
[man] We discuss within our circles, the worst thing that could happen to us is to have a fire and be the only one that gets out of the house, because we know we're gonna go to jail.
[Smith] And in this particular case, Karen Boes was arrested for this.
And unfortunately, the primary reason for that may have been nothing more than she was alive.
And the only person that really knows what happened was deceased.
A lot of what traditional arson investigators like DeHaan have done is they've done investigation based on assumptions that aren't true.
[Satawa] DeHaan and the prosecutor speculated that because of the burn pattern outside of Robin's bedroom, particularly on the ceiling and the wall, that they could determine that the fire was set intentionally outside in the hallway.
[Smith] There was no gasoline found in the hallway, yet the state indicated they believe gasoline to have been placed at that location.
There's no physical evidence of any gasoline being spread other than within this room where a five-gallon gasoline can was found next to Robin's body.
I believe that Robin was spreading the gasoline.
Whether it was an intentional act of her actually striking one of the many matches that were found in that bedroom, or whether it ignited from perhaps a candle flame before she was able to strike that match.
There was no burns to the underside of her chin, so that's very consistent with a right-handed person leaning over, lighting or throwing a match [scrapes] and as they're leaned over, their head is down, which is protecting this portion, which is what we saw.
In any event, the gasoline was being spread by Robin.
Well, as an expert witness, there always somebody else that has an opposing opinion.
But I did test that hypothesis, because that was the primary competing hypothesis.
Did she start the fire inside the room? And I couldn't make the pieces fit.
They have the burn patterns in the hall.
The ventilation pattern under the door.
It just didn't fit.
The prosecution did a fantastic job.
Their expert was an incredible expert.
He really had the crime scene laid out with exactly a timeline of "the fire started here, it grew here for a while, then this happened, then this happened.
" Then there was an explosion or a "deflagration," as they called it, in Robin's room.
That's what actually killed her.
Juries like to hear in my opinion They like to hear how something happened.
They're not as enamored when with my testimony if I say, "You know, I don't know if she struck a match or if a candle caused pre-ignition of this gasoline.
" What they are fascinated with is somebody that has the ability to say, "The door was open for only 15 seconds because of a char pattern on this door, and it only opened by three inches, so based on that, this happened, and this happened, and this happened.
" And they tend to sit back and go, "Oh, I understand.
" And so, every one of us, as a fire investigator, has to be cognizant of the fact that we could be making a mistake.
[woman] Have you been wrong before? Have you had to recant your conclusions before? Yes.
Because the data changed.
There's one very high-profile case with three kids dead in a fire in a house fire.
And my original conclusion based on the data that was available when I reached my initial conclusion, was that the mother actually set the fire.
So, I changed, yeah, I changed my opinion.
[woman] What, is that case at all similar to this case? Or could be? Mm Well, I mean, all structure fires resulting in a death are, you know, similar to in some respects, but I don't know how I'd draw a parallel.
[Hulsing] Does it make sense for this 14-year-old girl, dressed in her underwear, apparently with no makeup on, hair pulled back, no shoes on, to start pouring gasoline in her own bedroom? You will not be able to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Karen Boes poured gasoline in the east-west hallway of the bedroom.
[Payne] Her lawyer kept on saying, "Well, they don't have any evidence.
" So, we all expected, you know, an innocent verdict.
[Hulsing] We sent the jury home for the day.
That was a Thursday.
And they came back the following Friday.
And they got their instructions at nine o'clock.
And then they began the deliberations around ten, 10:30, something like that.
[Hulsing] It was to the point where the judge was saying to the attorneys, "I think I'm gonna send 'em home at 11.
" And all of a sudden, the bell went off.
[judge] The jury has been advised by the bailiff that you've reached a verdict.
If so, let your foreperson rise.
[forewoman] Guilty of first-degree felony murder.
[woman gasps, yelps] [woman sobbing] Twelve members of the community looked her in the eye and said, "We find you guilty of murdering your 14-year-old daughter.
" That says it all.
I think it was they're thinking of her as a bad person because she had an affair and she was an alcoholic.
I think that's what did her in.
There's nobody else who could have been there at that time.
Somebody had to have started the fire.
It had to have been her.
[Boeve] And she was definitely a troubled enough person, so I felt she was guilty.
They honestly could paint a picture of what happened that really was a picture.
Her guy didn't paint any picture.
[Zessin] You want to believe in reasonable doubt.
And if ever there was reasonable doubt, because there was an alternate theory that I proposed that was proven scientifically, in other words, the cause and the origin of the fire.
Let alone no motivation, no opportunity, none of those things seemed to matter to the jury.
And I think it goes back to nine hours of tapes.
[Satawa] What is the smoking gun? What is the glaring reason Karen got convicted? It was the junk arson evidence and the confession.
[Hulsing] It wasn't a "Hee-haw! We won the case!" It was really the realization that justice has been served.
But there really is no joy, per se, because Robin will not be coming back.
We're going to have Karen spend the rest of her life in prison.
We're going to have her family and friends still supporting her, thinking that the system wronged them.
[Zessin] Whenever you lose a case you should win, you have regrets.
You don't sleep at night.
I walked out of that courtroom.
I just packed my stuff and walked out the back hallway and out to the parking lot, got in my car, went home and said, "I don't know if I'll ever try another criminal case.
" I'm going to be going to prison for the rest of my life for something that I never even would have thought of doing.
But there is another day of judgment that each one of us will face for the good and bad that we have done.
Before Almighty God, I shall not stand accountable for this crime that I have been convicted of.
My thoughts are that Karen's innocent and that what she said in there was true.
God will decide in the end, but we plan on getting her out.
Our criminal justice system needs a real good look at.
I think that it's a terrible, terrible mis miscarriage of justice.
[voices overlapping] [man] I sat in that trial every day.
And at the end of the day, I said, "They haven't proven a thing.
" And yet, they convicted her.
I just don't understand it.
[Essenburg] In the beginning, Judy and I would go every month, and then it got to be every two months.
And now, it's about every three months.
[Boes] My first three years here, I was in shock.
I was grieving my daughter.
At first, you know, it's you know, was crazy, and, you know, now she's kind of accepted things the way they are.
[Boes] I've had such wonderful support.
Oh, my gosh, and I'm just so grateful.
And I don't I don't know what I'd do without the people that have stood by me through all these years.
[Boes on speaker] You guys, you know, my friends through the years, I mean, you guys have just been there through oh, man, my very, very worst, you know? Thank you so much.
Shows what your friendship means to us, though, too.
[Payne] So, we're all hopeful.
We go and we, you know, try to cheer her up and joke with her, tell her stories.
And you know, talk about our kids, grandkids.
[Payne] My daughter married her son, and we have a really cute little granddaughter.
Judy and I always say we'll keep going, even if our children have to drive us here, and yep, we will not ever stop.
[Hulsing] We have a community that is still divided.
We have people who can't psychologically get there That their friend, their family member, their acquaintance did this.
[woman] Why couldn't they have just settled on this being suicide or an accident? I have no clue.
Maybe 'cause Hulsing was gonna run for judge and this looked good.
[Rigg] Sometimes, it's hard to get to what's best because there's so much conflict between who's right.
And there's a need for more justice than what showed up.
There is no scientific data to show that Karen actually set a fire that resulted in the death of her daughter, Robin.
[Smith] You know, and I've told them I'm certainly standing by to continue the case pro bono to see if we can get her out.
[Boes] I had a lot of trust in the system.
I was brought up to believe that, you know, the innocent are innocent until proven guilty.
That is not the case.
I just don't I had no idea.
The police were there to serve and protect me, you know? They were the good guys, for Pete's sake.
I just believed they were out for my best interests.
And I would advise anybody today, no matter how innocent you may be, get an attorney, and don't speak.