- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) — Jurors were asked yesterday to decide whether to convict a man of killing his wife or to believe a defense claim that she poisoned herself and framed her husband.

In closing arguments, the defense and prosecution each said there wasn’t enough evidence supporting the other’s theory about the way Julie Jensen, 40, died in 1998 at her home in Pleasant Prairie.

Mark Jensen, now 48, was charged with first-degree murder and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole if convicted.

Prosecutor Robert Jambois said Mr. Jensen plotted to kill his wife, searching the Internet for information on ethylene glycol — the toxic chemical commonly used as antifreeze — and then making her drink spiked juice. When her health appeared to be improving, he pushed her face in a pillow and suffocated her, Mr. Jambois claimed.

Defense attorney Craig Albee said the prosecution’s case was shaky, relying on a poison expert who made a crucial mistake, questionable jail inmates who claim Mr. Jensen confessed to them and witnesses whose memories were mistaken or tainted after nearly a decade.

Mr. Jensen was charged in 2002, but legal wrangling over evidence delayed the trial.

That evidence included a letter Mrs. Jensen wrote before she died pointing the finger at her husband. It also included her statements to police, to a neighbor and to her son’s teacher that she suspected her husband was trying to kill her.

“I pray that I am wrong and nothing happens, but I am suspicious of Mark’s suspicious behaviors and fear for my early demise,” Mrs. Jensen said in the letter that was read in court.

Mr. Jambois said there was no evidence to support the defense’s assertion that Mrs. Jensen committed suicide and framed her husband for murder, noting that the plot would ensure their two children were left without parents.

“What evidence did you hear in this case that would support such an utterly ridiculous, utterly implausible presentation?” Mr. Jambois asked. “Did you hear any evidence that would suggest Julie Jensen was that kind of bitter, vindictive person?”

Mr. Albee said prosecutors didn’t realize for years that their poison expert had overstated how much ethylene glycol was in Mrs. Jensen’s stomach, until a defense expert discovered the discrepancy.

He said that forced prosecutors to rely on an inmate, Aaron Dillard, who came forward last year and said that while they were jailed together, Mr. Jensen admitted smothering his wife. Prosecutors then changed their theory.

Dillard said Mr. Jensen told him that he put antifreeze in Mrs. Jensen’s juice and she got sick. When she appeared to be getting better, Mr. Jensen “rolled her over and sat on her back.”

“There is no way that Aaron Dillard could have anticipated that the physical evidence precisely corresponded to the description of the murder unless it was the murderer who told him that,” Mr. Jambois said.

Mr. Albee called Dillard a liar and thief.

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