Rose Katie Roseborough
Rose "Katie" Roseborough

Ajax Loader Gif

On April 23, 2003, Rose was sleeping on the sofa in her living room in Ashland, Ohio when she awoke to find a fire on the home's second floor.  She tried to rescue her 11-month-old twin daughters, Lucie and Julia, but was driven back by the heavy smoke.  The children died of smoke inhalation.  Rose was charged with arson and 2 counts of murder, and the death penalty was sought.  The key evidence offered at trial was the "expert" testimony of EMT Kevin Rosser, who claimed that he noticed "large particle soot" on Rose's face at the fire scene.  Holding himself out as a fire expert, Rosser opined that such soot is only produced in the early stages of a fire, meaning Rose set the fire herself.  The presiding judge refused to conduct a Daubert hearing on the scientific validity of EMT Rosser's testimony.  Rose was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.  Fortunately, Judge James D. Sweeney recognized junk science proffered by an unqualified witness.  He has vacated Rose's conviction and ordered a new trial.  Click HERE to read his January 7, 2009 opinion. 

UPDATE:  The State of Ohio appealed Judge Sweeney's order for a new trial, alleging that he abused his discretion in so doing.  On April 23, 2010, the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Sweeney's reversal of Kate's conviction.
Judge orders new trial for Roseborough

January 16, 2009

T-G Staff Writer
An assigned judge has ordered Rose "Katie" Roseborough retried for the 2003 murder of her 11-month-old twin daughters.
Citing ineffective assistance of counsel and a violation of her due process rights, assigned Judge James D. Sweeney ruled last week in favor of a defense motion to vacate Roseborough's conviction and set aside her sentence.
Roseborough, 29, is serving life in prison for the 2003 murder of her daughters, Julia and Lucie Bursley, in connection with a house fire at 425 Edgehill Ave. Roseborough's daughter, Caitlin, who was 4 years old at the time, was injured in the fire.
At issue is a firefighter's testimony about smudged soot on Roseborough's face.
Firefighter Kevin Rosser of the City Fire Department testified during the trial that the composition of the soot indicated Roseborough had been present during the early stages of the fire.
Defense attorneys attempted to establish that Caitlin started the fire in her second-floor bedroom and Roseborough discovered it after it had been burning long enough to asphyxiate the twins, who were sleeping in another upstairs bedroom.
Sweeney, who was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the motion, ruled that Roseborough's defense counsel, William Whitaker and Mary Margaret Rowlands, should have obtained an expert witness or performed research to refute Rosser's testimony.
Also at issue is trial Judge David L. Johnson's ruling that Rosser's testimony was admissible. During the trial, Whitaker and Rowlands requested what is known as a Daubert hearing, which would have given them an opportunity to challenge the scientific validity of Rosser's testimony. Johnson denied their request.
Prosecutor Ramona Francesconi-Rogers said Thursday she would appeal the ruling.
She has 30 days to file an appeal. It would be filed with the 5th District Court of Appeals, the same court that denied Roseborough's appeal in 2006.
Roseborough is incarcerated at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.
n Irv Oslin can be reached at 419-281-0581 ext. 240 or at ioslin@
Roseborough Timeline of Events
The ruling in favor of a new trial for Rose "Katie" Roseborough was the latest development in a case that has taken many twists and turns before, during and after the trial. The ruling, issued Jan. 6 by assigned Judge James D. Sweeney, was on a motion for post-conviction relief filed by public defenders. Before that, the case had been appealed at the state and federal level, but Roseborough's conviction had been upheld.
Here are the key developments in the case:
April 7, 2003 -- A fire started in an upstairs bedroom at 425 Edgehill Ave., where Roseborough lived with her daughter, Caitlin, who was 4 years old at the time, and her 11-month-old twins, Julia and Lucie Bursley. Julia died at Samaritan Hospital shortly after the fire. Lucie died three days later at Akron Children's Hospital. Caitlin was injured in the fire, but recovered.
May 3, 2003 -- Roseborough was taken into custody after being questioned at the City Police Department. She was released three days later without being charged.
(NOTE-6 month hiatus between fire and charges)
November 2003 -- Roseborough was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications, one count of attempted aggravated murder, two counts of involuntary manslaughter (alternative charges), one count of aggravated arson and two counts of child endangering.
Aug. 10, 2004 -- The trial began with Judge David L. Johnson presiding. Johnson was appointed after Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey L. Runyan recused himself, citing personal experience with a fire at his home that might affect his ability to try the case.
Sept. 9, 2004 -- After an emotional trial that was constantly sidetracked by legal challenges and sidebar conferences, the jury found Roseborough guilty of two counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications, one count of attempted murder and aggravated arson.
Nov. 15, 2004 -- Accepting the jury's recommendations to spare her from the death penalty, Johnson sentenced Roseborough to life in prison without parole on each of two counts of aggravated murder. Johnson also sentenced her to 10 years each on counts of attempted murder and aggravated arson. All sentences were ordered served consecutively.
May 2006 -- The 5th District Court of Appeals denied an appeal filed by public defenders, that alleged Roseborough did not receive a fair trial.
October 2006 -- The Ohio Supreme Court found no constitutional grounds to reconsider the 5th District Court's decision denying the appeal.
Feb. 26, 2007 -- The U.S. Supreme Court also found no grounds to reconsider the district court's decision.
Public defenders subsequently filed a motion for post-conviction relief, which was ruled on last week.