Jensen records to stay open
Judge rejects defense bid to seal court documents
Mesa County District Judge Valerie Robison on Thursday rejected a defense bid to seal the public court file in the case of accused mother Heather Jensen, ensuring continued public access to records in the case.
In a related move, the judge also refused to impose a gag order.
Robison said in a written order that a motion filed by attorney Ed Nugent seeking closure of the public case file was “lacking in authority” under state law, while Colorado’s rules of criminal procedure have “no provision” for sealing public court files.
The judge’s ruling made no mention of potential infringement against the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, were such a request to be granted.
Nugent filed the motion in a bid to limit pretrial publicity in the case. The request was met with objection from the District Attorney’s Office, arguing it was unprecedented in a local criminal case as well as “arbitrary and capricious.”
“Even if the court seals the court file, the public and the media will still be allowed to attend every court hearing, and glean whatever information they can from the in-court proceedings,” the DA’s response said.
Nugent pointed to pretrial media coverage and a “lynch mob mentality” against Jensen in Mesa County in filing a separate motion seeking the gag order, citing concerns about Jensen’s ability to get a fair trial.
If granted, parties in the case would have risked a criminal contempt citation—not only attorneys but Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputies and officials with the Mesa County Coroner’s Office—if deemed to have improperly disclosed information.
“All attorneys are already bound by Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct,” Robison wrote in her order. “The court determines no further order is required at this time.”
Hours before the planned funeral and burial of her young boys, Jensen, 24, was formally charged Thursday morning in connection with their deaths.
Jensen, dressed in a red Mesa County jail jumpsuit in an indication she’s being held in a maximum security wing of the jail, talked privately with her attorney but made no statements as Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle filed two counts of negligent child abuse resulting in death, two counts of criminally negligent homicide and one count of misdemeanor false reporting.
Nugent waived Jensen’s right to have a preliminary hearing within 30 days but signaled he may request such a hearing later. During a preliminary hearing, a judge hears evidence to decide whether there’s probable cause to justify criminal charges.
The case is scheduled to return before Robison next Thursday.
An arrest warrant affidavit alleges Jensen was having sex with a man and smoking marijuana on the night of Nov. 27, 2012, on Grand Mesa as her sons were overheating nearby after being left alone in their mother’s sport-utility vehicle. William died that night and Tyler was removed from life support Dec. 3. The coroner’s office ruled the boys died of hyperthermia, or overheating, while ruling the deaths accidental.