- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Julie Jensen essentially will testify from the grave when her husband’s murder trial begins this week.

Shortly before her death in 1998, Mrs. Jensen told police, a neighbor and her son’s teacher that she suspected her spouse was trying to kill her, court documents show. She gave a letter to the neighbor that said that if she died, Mark Jensen should be the first suspect.

“I pray I’m wrong + nothing happens … but I am suspicious of Mark’s suspicious behaviors + fear for my demise,” she wrote.

Until recent years, using such evidence in court was virtually unheard of because of constitutional guarantees that give criminal defendants the right to confront their accusers.

But the Wisconsin Supreme Court created new rules, prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that laid the groundwork for her accusatory letter and statements to police to be used as evidence in the trial.

At a hearing this summer, it was determined that the letter and statements to police should be allowed at trial. Jury selection begins today; opening statements are scheduled for Monday.

The hearing gave a glimpse of what both sides would argue.

The prosecution claims that Mr. Jensen, now 48, poisoned his wife with at least two doses of ethylene glycol, commonly used as antifreeze, so he could be with his girlfriend, now his wife. They argue that he obtained the information on poisoning from conducting Web searches.

The defense counters that a depressed and disturbed 40-year-old Mrs. Jensen conducted the Internet searches and poisoned herself — to frame her cheating husband.

Special prosecutor Robert Jambois wouldn’t comment on his case. Defense attorneys didn’t return a call for comment.

Mrs. Jensen was found dead in her Pleasant Prairie home in Dec. 3, 1998. Mr. Jensen was not charged until 2002, and legal wrangling over evidence delayed the trial.

In March 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 1980 case that laid out complex rules about when statements can be used without the opportunity for cross-examination. The court said the case complicated a part of the Constitution that guarantees a criminal defendant the right to confront his accusers.

Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder then ruled that the letter and voice mails to police were inadmissible, but testimony of the neighbor and teacher could be allowed. Prosecutors appealed and the state Supreme Court ruled previously inadmissible testimony could be used if a judge determined the defendants’ actions prevented the witnesses from testifying.

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