Jensen lawyers will appeal conviction in sons’ deaths

Issues will be raised with court after March 21 sentencing

Heather Jensen



JENSEN_Heather_file_mug

Heather Jensen

The Colorado Public Defender’s office in Grand Junction says Heather Jensen will pursue an appeal of her conviction Friday.

Steve Colvin, who runs the local public defender office, said issues to be raised to the Colorado Court of Appeals will be decided by lawyers from the appellate division of the public defender system, in consultation with Jensen and her trial lawyers, after she’s sentenced March 21 by District Judge Valerie Robison.

“Right now, there’s no way to know which issues are being pursued,” Colvin said.

Jensen, 25, was convicted on two counts of class 3 felony child abuse resulting in death, with negligence, in connection with the deaths of sons William, 2, and Tyler, 4, who died as a result of overheating in their mother’s Toyota 4Runner on Nov. 27, 2012.

The jury, eight women and four men, returned not guilty verdicts on two counts of criminally negligent homicide. She was also convicted of misdemeanor false reporting.

Prosecutors and public defenders clashed on several points during and before Jensen’s trial.

Over objections from public defenders Thea Reiff and Elsa Archambault, Robison reversed herself during the trial and allowed testimony from Jensen’s boyfriend, Pete Stein-Gillette, concerning infidelity. Stein-Gillette testified he and Jensen were involved in an intimate relationship more than a month before the October 2012 death of Jensen’s husband, Eric, in a car accident in Garfield County.

Robison had previously ruled such testimony off-limits because of potential prejudicial impact.

Also hotly contested before trial, Jensen’s defense fought unsuccessfully for jurors to hear testimony from Mesa County forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Kurtzman. Kurtzman ruled the boys’ manner of death to be accidental, not homicide.

The judge ruled Kurtzman’s conclusions on manner of death could cause confusion.



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The defense attorneys can also go after individual jurors and subpoena their personal medical records if they think any of them could have had a physical or mental disability—disclosed or undisclosed, like a vision, hearing or cognitive impairment—that might have kept them from hearing, seeing or understanding any of the testimony adequately. Defense attorneys can also go after individual jurors if they can find reason to assert that any answer on a juror’s questionnaire could potentially be false. In that event, the defense can also subpoena jurors’ tax records, employment records, divorce records, driving records, criminal histories, etc.  Lawyers are not supposed to keep juror questionnaires, but the Blagg case has shown that defense attorneys do, in fact, secretly copy these questionnaires and keep them for potential use in later attempts to get new trials for clients who have been convicted of serious crimes. Neither the courts nor the Jury Commissioner disclose to jurors the potential for this kind of invasion into their personal lives as a result of serving on a jury.

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