Jensen Murder Trial to Begin This Week
Mark Jensen | Photo: Today's TMJ 4
ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) -- Jurors will be asked to decide whether a cheating husband poisoned his wife or she killed herself to frame him when a 9-year-old murder case goes to trial this week.
Mark Jensen, 48, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 40-year-old wife, Julie Jensen. Opening statements are set for Monday.
The trial was moved from Kenosha County to Walworth County, about 45 miles southwest of Milwaukee, because of pretrial publicity.
Julie Jensen was found dead in her Pleasant Prairie home Dec. 3, 1998. Mark Jensen was charged in 2002, but legal wrangling over evidence delayed the trial.
Much of the contention dealt with statements Julie Jensen made before she died and a note she left behind pointing the finger at her husband.
"I pray I'm wrong + nothing happens ... but I am suspicious of Mark's suspicious behaviors + fear for my demise," she wrote in a letter she gave to a neighbor before she died.
Julie Jensen also told police, a neighbor and her son's teacher that she suspected her husband was trying to kill her, according to court documents.
Until recent years, using such evidence in court was virtually unheard of because of constitutional guarantees giving criminal defendants the right to confront their accusers.
But the Wisconsin Supreme Court created new evidence rules, guided by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that laid the groundwork for the use of Julie Jensen's letter and statements to police.
It was determined at a summer hearing that the letter and statements should be allowed at trial.
A jury of nine men and 11 women, including eight alternates, was selected Friday.
The prosecution alleges Mark Jensen poisoned his wife with at least two doses of ethylene glycol, commonly used as antifreeze, so he could be with a girlfriend he has since married. Prosecutors claim Mark Jensen got information on poisoning from Internet searches.
The defense counters that a depressed and disturbed Julie Jensen did the Internet searches and poisoned herself -- to frame her cheating husband.
One of Julie Jensen's four brothers, Paul Griffin, said at least one brother will be at the trial every day. The Jensens had two sons.
The family created a Web site in Julie Jensen's honor, www.oursisterjulie.com.
It features a biography, family photos, a timeline of the Jensens' marriage, facts about ethylene glycol poisoning and Julie's letter, among other things.
"Your model of respect, stability, balance and self-assurance still lives in me," Griffin wrote in a letter posted on the site. "I often find myself asking in times of uncertainty, 'What would Julie have done in this situation?' My only regret is that the respect you taught me kept me from prying into your troubled relationship with Mark."
Griffin said another brother put the Web site together in anticipation of negative information that may be reported in the media during the trial.
"It would be nice to have more of a memorial for remembering Julie and who she really was," he said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)