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Jury mulls claims in husband’s poisoning trial

The defense's assertion that a woman committed suicide to frame her husband is ridiculous and not plausible, a prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The defense's assertion that a woman committed suicide to frame her husband is ridiculous and not plausible, a prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments Monday.

Prosecutor Robert Jambois said Mark Jensen gave his wife sleeping pills in the days before her 1998 death so he could give her multiple doses of ethylene glycol — a toxic chemical commonly used as antifreeze.

He used the sleeping pills "to make Julie Jensen more malleable, more susceptible to the poison he was putting in her system," Jambois said.

Jensen, 48, is charged with first-degree murder in the 1998 death of his 40-year-old wife. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole if convicted.

Jambois called the defense's claim that Julie Jensen framed her husband for murder "utterly ridiculous" because it would have ensured their two children, whom she loved so much, were left without a mother and father. The defense claimed Julie Jensen was depressed, angry and bitter, but that did not prove anything more than she was miserable in her situation, he said.

Woman wrote of her suspicions
Julie Jensen also could not have gotten out of bed the day before she died to do Internet searches on the stages of ethylene glycol poisoning and again on the day she died to try to erase the searches, Jambois said. The searches were found on the family computer.

The defense planned to present closing arguments and case was expected to go to the jury later Monday.

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

That evidence included a letter Julie 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," Julie Jensen said in the letter that prosecutor Robert Jambois read during his opening statement.

Until recently, using such evidence in court was virtually unheard of because of constitutional guarantees giving criminal defendants the right to confront their accusers.

New evidence in case
However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court created new evidence rules, guided by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that laid the groundwork for the use of Julie Jensen's letter and statements to police.

For years, authorities said Julie Jensen had died of multiple doses of ethylene glycol. But last year a jail inmate, bank robber David Thompson, told authorities that Mark Jensen indicated to him that he suffocated his wife after she appeared to be improving from the poison. Prosecutors called experts who say they found evidence of suffocation.

Another inmate, Ed Klug, testified that Jensen told him last year he killed his wife and asked him to help make a witness "just go away" until after the trial.

Klug was Jensen's former co-worker. He testified that before Julie Jensen died, Mark Jensen told him he thought about poisoning his wife. Prosecutors didn't hear about him until last year.

Defense lawyer Craig Albee worked hard to chip away at the allegations, getting Thompson to admit he would use almost any means he felt would help him and that he has lied previously to law enforcement to stay out of jail.

Albee called his own poison expert to say Julie Jensen could have taken the multiple doses of poison herself, contradicting the prosecution's poison expert who testified someone had to give it to her.

Albee claims Julie Jensen was depressed and killed herself to frame her husband. He called to the stand the Jensen family doctor who said he saw Julie Jensen a few days before her death and described her as depressed and frantic.

Mark Jensen did not testify.