innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Woman's husband may get out of prison

This article appeared in Washington state's South Bend Tribune on October 30, 2006:

South Bend woman's husband may get out of prison after witness admits lying

Tribune Staff Writer

Rose Marie Kaseweter has been waiting for 10 years.Waiting, hoping and praying that her husband will be released from prison and come home to her and their daughter in South Bend.But her longest wait may be from now to Thanksgiving.

That is when the Bremen High School teacher expects to learn if a judge may free her husband based on new evidence in his case. The hearing was last week in Vancouver, Wash.

The judge heard testimony from a man who said he lied to save himself from a long prison sentence when he claimed Bob Kaseweter was behind an attempted abduction and shooting in 1992.

Bob Kaseweter has always said he was not involved in the 1992 incident for which he was convicted. He was accused of conspiring to kidnap a woman and a man, who was wounded in the hand as the couple drove away.

"It went wonderfully," Rose Marie Kaseweter said in a telephone interview of the hearing she'd been waiting for since 2003."

He said he wanted to clear his conscience," she said of James Shirk, the key witness.

She said Shirk told law students working on the case from the University of Washington's Innocence Project that he did not realize until 2003 he had put an innocent person behind bars because of his brother's lies.

It was the work of law professor and Innocence Project Director Jacqueline McMurtrie and her students that took Bob Kaseweter's case this far, Rose Marie Kaseweter said.

For the hearing, James Shirk was flown in with his wife from Twin Falls, Idaho. He admitted he had implicated Bob Kaseweter to avoid a 25-year-sentence, according to Rose Marie Kaseweter. Shirk served only nine months in jail.Shirk's brother, Donovan, is still serving a prison sentence in Washington for his role in the 1992 crimes.

Donovan Shirk, who worked for Kaseweter in a Vancouver auto parts store, at first implicated his boss, but since has said from prison that Kaseweter was not involved in the case, Rose Marie said.She and 11-year-old Mikhala were on their 26th trip out west since their husband and father began his prison term in June 1996, after an unsuccessful appeal.

Rose Marie and Bob met in the summer of 1992 on a mission trip to Mexico and continued their romance long distance. After Bob was arrested, tried and convicted in 1993, the couple married while he was free on bond during the appeal.

Last week was the first time Mikhala could remember that she had ever seen her father with a clean-shaven face, according to her mother, and somewhere other than in a prison.

Going to court and seeing her father without "face fuzz," as she usually does during semi-annual trips to Washington at Christmas vacation and in July, "made a huge impression," Rose Marie said.

"The week has been exhausting but good," Rose Marie said from Portland, Ore., where she and her daughter stayed with one of Bob's brothers. Mother and daughter were to return Saturday to South Bend.

After hearing the testimony of James Shirk, his wife and two other character witnesses, the judge asked questions of her husband's public defender and McMurtrie, and even the prosecutor, Rose Marie said.

She said the district attorney told the judge that if the conviction is overturned, the prosecution has virtually no case left."I was thrilled to hear it," Rose Marie said.

The judge in Clark County took the matter under advisement for 30 days.

If the judge orders a new trial, her husband's lawyers will seek his immediate release if the district attorney does not plan to try it again, Rose Marie said.

She hopes both things happen soon. Otherwise, her husband must remain in prison four more years.After the Shirks testified, Rose Marie said that she thanked James' wife, "for being the good woman behind the man." Rose Marie said she shook James' hand.

"I told him we've forgiven him and had no ill feelings for him."

Reflecting two days later, she said. "I had to do it. It was cleansing. I had say it when I saw him. It was a powerful, emotional day."

Rose Marie and her daughter were bolstered at the hearing with the attendance of her brothers-in-law, a sister-in-law, two pastors and one of the pastor's wives.

Plus there were law students McMurtrie brought from the Innocence Project.

Rose Marie said she appreciates all the prayers and support her family has received through their churches and from friends and colleagues.

Staff writer Marti Goodlad 235-6327


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