By CARRIE ANTLFINGER
MILWAUKEE (AP) — The brother of a Wisconsin woman killed 15 years ago with antifreeze said Friday that he was at first shocked when he heard a judge overturned her husband’s conviction in the case.
The federal judge decided Wednesday that Mark Jensen, 54, was improperly tried in 2008 because he couldn’t confront his dead wife, Julie Jensen, and her “letter from the grave” implicating him as the primary suspect.
“It’s kind of like a punch in the stomach,” Paul Griffin, one of Julie Jensen’s four brothers, told The Associated Press Friday.
The decision centered on a letter that Julie Jensen had slipped to her Pleasant Prairie neighbor, saying she suspected her husband of plotting to kill her.
Mark Jensen was charged in 2002, four years after his wife died. The case was slowed by a legal debate over whether the letter and her statements to others could be used in court, or whether that evidence would violate Jensen’s Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser.
A county judge ultimately decided the letter was admissible. Jensen is serving a life sentence in prison.
The federal judge concluded the case didn’t meet the narrow specifications under which that constitutional right could be overlooked. The ruling means prosecutors now have 90 days to either appeal the decision or retry Jensen. If they do neither, Jensen will go free. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s spokeswoman Dana Brueck said by email Friday they are evaluating their options and will take some action within the next 30 days.
Griffin said he’s remaining positive and won’t let it ruin his Christmas. He said if Jensen is retried, he’s confident a jury would come to the same conclusion.
“Nothing would be lost,” he said. “There’s so much evidence other than the letter.”