KENOSHA — The case against Mark Jensen remains strong despite a bar against his dead wife’s letter and messages implicating him appearing at trial, a prosecutor said Friday.
Jensen is charged with first-degree intentional homicide for the 1998 death of his wife Julie, the state alleging Jensen poisoned her with antifreeze and then suffocated her at their Pleasant Prairie home.
Jensen was convicted in 2008, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. The conviction was reinstated without trial by Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Chad Kerkman in 2017, then overturned on appeal again.
Jensen has maintained his innocence for more than two decades. At the original trial, his attorneys suggested that Julie Jensen committed suicide and framed her husband.
He now faces a second trial, but prosecutors will no longer be allowed to use a letter Julie wrote or statements she left on a voicemail to a police officer that indicated she suspected her husband wanted to kill her. The appellate and state supreme court found her letter and statements were testimonial, and subject to the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment.
Bond hearing held
At a bond hearing Friday before newly appointed Judge Anthony Milisauskas, defense attorneys sought to lower Jensen’s bond from $1.2 million to $300,000, arguing that Jensen has been incarcerated for years while his right to a new trial has been delayed, and that the case against him has been altered. Jensen was not in the courtroom, appearing instead by phone.
“Mr. Jensen was ready to start trial on a speedy basis (in 2017),” said defense attorney Mackenzie Renner. “Now, almost four years later, we are back here in court because of the law in this case that should have been followed in the first place.”
During Jensen’s original prosecution, Jensen had been free on bond for several years awaiting trial until the judge then overseeing the trial raised the bond to $1.2 million.
When the case again returned to court earlier this year, Kerkman reinstated the $1.2 million bond.
‘Overwhelming evidence’ cited
Special prosecutor Robert Jambois, who handled both the original Jensen trial and the 2017 circuit court hearings that led to the conviction being reinstated, argued that the bond should remain at $1.2 million, saying there is “overwhelming evidence of guilt” even without the letter.
“With or without the letter, this is a very, very strong case,” Jambois said. “There is overwhelming evidence of the defendant’s guilt.”
Jambois also argued that Jensen was a danger to witnesses in the case — citing statements he made to another man housed at Kenosha County Jail during his original prosecution, and statements made to his parents on recorded phone lines at that time. Jambois also argued Jensen is a flight risk.
“He doesn’t like (prison), he doesn’t want to go back there, and he would do almost anything to avoid going back there,” Jambois said.
At the hearing, Julie Jensen’s brother Paul Griffin spoke, asking that Jensen’s bond continue at $1.2 million.
‘No other charge as serious’
Milisauskas said Friday that he believed the $1.2 million bond was reasonable in a homicide case, and denied the defense motion.
“There is no other charge as serious, this is the top of the line,” Milisauskas said, saying that issues of witness tampering and flight risk were a danger.
“The letter is not coming in,” the judge said, but he said that his review of the case filed made him believe there was still “ample evidence to proceed.”
The case will return to court June 25 for a status hearing.