KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has heard arguments in the case of a Wisconsin man whose conviction for poisoning his wife was overturned.
The state appealed the case to the 7th Circuit after a federal judge in Milwaukee overturned Mark Jensen’s 2008 conviction in the 1998 death of his wife, Julie Jensen, at their Pleasant Prairie home. The federal judge said statements made by Julie Jensen were improperly used at trial, including a letter that blamed her husband if she should die.
Medical examiners reported conflicting causes of death. The state argued that Mark Jensen killed his wife and made it look like a suicide, while the defense said she killed herself and then framed her husband for murder.
“I kept looking for evidence that could not be disputed or impeached between these two very dark theories,” 7th Circuit Judge David Hamilton said of his court record reviews.
The evidence was circumstantial and contested, according to Craig Albee, the state public defender representing Jensen. Statements Julie Jensen made before her death, especially in the letter, “permeated the trial,” he said. One medical examiner said “every sentence” in the letter led her to believe Julie Jensen’s death was the result of a homicide.
“This was a very close case,” Albee said. “I think there’s a strong likelihood (without the statements) the verdict could have come back the other way.”
He argues that the letter and the medical examiner’s testimony likely caused the jury to agree on the guilty verdict and the court failed to realize that before it was too late.
“They never discussed what would have been the effect of the letter on the jury,” he said.
Hamilton agreed about the power Julie Jensen’s statements had during the trial.
“It’s very hard to see how such explosive evidence was harmless,” he said.
The three-judge panel did not immediately rule on the case after hearing arguments Thursday, the Kenosha News reported.
Information from: Kenosha News, http://www.kenoshanews.com