Jensen hears charges; juror vetting begins
In her first impression before would-be jurors Tuesday, Heather Jensen dabbed tears as a judge read aloud criminal charges faced by the Palisade mother in the high profile deaths of her young sons.
Jury selection — attorneys whittled away at a list of approximately 85 names past 5 p.m. on Tuesday — will resume this morning at 9 a.m. in the courtroom of District Judge Valerie Robison. Prosecutors and Jensen’s public defenders will have up to 90 minutes apiece to question the jury panel.
Those involved believed there was a chance opening statements could be delivered late this afternoon.
Jensen, 25, has pleaded not guilty to criminally negligent homicide, child abuse resulting in death and false reporting in the deaths of her sons William, 2, and Tyler, 4, who died after overheating in their mother’s SUV on Grand Mesa on Nov. 27, 2012.
Just over a year after Jensen was arrested in Florida, the start of trial Tuesday was notable for what didn’t happen.
With Jensen originally sporting a white top and a skirt, her public defender, Thea Reiff, expressed concerns Jensen could suffer prejudice if prospective jurors saw a leg restraint placed on Jensen by deputies at the Mesa County jail. The restraints are normal practice by deputies during criminal trials in Mesa County, Robison said.
“I’ve never worked in a jurisdiction where they routinely shackle people to a table,” Reiff told the judge.
Proceedings were delayed most of Tuesday morning as a defense investigator left the Mesa County Justice Center and hand-delivered brown pants, presumably to hide the shackles.
More than a dozen people were tossed Tuesday from the jury pool largely because of expressed opinions about Jensen’s guilt or innocence. They included a woman who told the judge she works locally for a collection agency dealing in medical bills.
The woman claimed to know of past-due medical bills supposedly owed by Jensen.
Mesa County authorities, meanwhile, said at least two people may face arrest after Tuesday.
Jury Commissioner Rose Anne Kelley said arrest warrants may be issued for two jurors who apparently showed up to court last week to complete jury questionnaires for Jensen’s case, but didn’t show up Tuesday for trial. Kelley declined to identify the pair.
Jensen’s trial is scheduled through next week.