Emotion high at start of Jensen trial

Arguments focus on negligence in 2 deaths

Defendant Heather Jensen, left, cries as the 911 recording of her call for help is played for the jury during opening statements Wednesday during her trial at the Mesa County Justice Center on charges of criminally negligent homicide, child abuse resulting in death, and false reporting. Public defender Thea Reiff is at right.

It’s not dying children locked in a truck.

Or, quick sex with someone other than her new boyfriend nearby at Powderhorn resort.

And it’s not so much stories told to the cops after the fact.

In the criminal trial of 25-year-old Heather Lynn Jensen, pay particular attention to what Jensen knew about her truck, Deputy District Attorney Danielle Lewis told jurors during emotion-packed opening statements on Wednesday.

Especially, take to heart her knowledge of the heating system in her Toyota 4Runner, Lewis said.

“She told law enforcement she would never leave my children in my car ... she told law enforcement she wouldn’t do that because she knew how hot it could get, and the night this happened she turned the heat on to medium because, in her words, she didn’t want her children to roast.”

That, Lewis said, is precisely what happened the night of Nov. 27, 2012, to Jensen’s sons William, 2, and Tyler, 4, over nearly 90 minutes on Grand Mesa inside the truck. Tests would show temperatures inside the Toyota reached 140 degrees in 90 minutes, Lewis noted.

With both sons strapped in carseats in the back and the heat blasting, Tyler at some point managed to reach a door and open it. Jensen gave him her cellphone to play with, engaged the child-proof lock system, shut the door, hopped in another vehicle and had sex with a male friend, Lewis said.

She later told law enforcement and others her boys were playing in the snow, Lewis said.

There’s no evidence the brothers left their carseats.

“She essentially sentenced William and Tyler to death,” Lewis told jurors as Jensen sobbed loudly and repeatedly at various times during opening statements.

Jensen’s wailing and tears at the defense table happened in view of the jury, as well as after the jury had left the courtroom Wednesday.

Public defender Elsa Archambault on Wednesday acknowledged jurors may judge negatively a recently widowed, “emotionally needy” single mother with an IQ of 76. Archambault pointed out that’s “bordering on developmentally disabled.”

“It was late November, the sun was going down and it’s 30 degrees — no one would think two boys could die because they’re sitting in a car with the heat on,” Archambault said.

At least two female members of the jury — consisting of 10 women and five men — were observed wiping away tears as Archambault played a 911 phone call made by an at-times distraught Jensen at 6:29 p.m. on Nov. 27, 2012.

Jensen sobbed loudly as the recording was played for the jury.

“I just lost my husband a month ago,” she’s heard screaming, among other things, to the dispatcher while taking CPR instruction.

“That,” Archambault said after ending the recording, “was not a woman who perceived a substantial risk.”

Attorneys through much of jury selection harped on Colorado’s legal standard for criminal negligence. Colorado law says it’s proven when someone “through a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise, he/she fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists.”

“You may disagree with her choices, but they do not rise to the level of criminal negligence,” Archambault told the jury.

Jensen has pleaded not guilty to criminally negligent homicide, child abuse resulting in death and false reporting in her sons’ deaths. Testimony is expected to start this morning with law enforcement witnesses.

The trial is scheduled through Jan. 31, although testimony may conclude before.


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