Jensen trial: Car’s heater on maximum
The climate control panel in Heather Jensen’s seized Toyota 4Runner was on maximum heat, the fan was off and a setting suggests heat was being re-circulated inside, according to testimony Friday in Jensen’s trial.
And despite front driver and front passenger-side windows being cracked down about an inch or so — like Jensen told an investigator they were — testing done at Powderhorn aimed at roughly re-creating conditions from Nov. 27, 2012, showed temperatures inside hit as high as 132 degrees in 45 minutes, Mesa County Sheriff’s investigator Scott Ehlers testified.
At 90 minutes, monitors in the rear seating area, where William and Tyler Jensen’s car seats were strapped in, went up to 136 degrees.
No critical levels of carbon monoxide were found during multiple tests on the 4Runner, while Ehlers told the jury they set the fan speed on “medium low” during some of the tests. That’s the speed Jensen said she’d set on Nov. 27, 2012, before her sons’ fatal injuries, Ehlers said.
In a preview of testimony to come, Deputy District Attorney Danielle Lewis said during opening statements jurors will hear Jensen admitted putting the heat on “medium” because “she didn’t want her children to roast.”
The workings of Jensen’s vehicle was a prominent theme of Friday’s testimony, which was the second day of the prosecution’s case. Jensen, 25, has pleaded not guilty on two counts of criminally negligent homicide, two counts of child abuse resulting in death with negligence, and false reporting in connection with her sons’ deaths.
An autopsy showed the boys died of hyperthermia, or overheating.
Prosecutors have alleged Jensen failed to perceive substantial risk of death, while Colorado law says they also must prove it was “gross deviation from the standard of care” provided by a reasonable person. Jensen’s defense has argued it was an accident that doesn’t rise to the level of criminal negligence.
Friday’s testimony was delayed after District Judge Valerie Robison opted to excuse a juror over concern the juror may be acquainted with Jensen.
A witness in the case reported Thursday having attended a Halloween party several years ago with the juror, which was also attended by Jensen. The witness also claimed to have frequented several bars, including Cactus Canyon, with the juror and Jensen, all together.
Also of concern, an allegation the witness who raised the matter may have sent the juror a “friend” request on Facebook on Jan. 16. That was one day after prospective jurors gathered at the Mesa County Justice Center to fill out questionnaires.
Interviewed before the start of testimony Friday, the juror insisted she didn’t know or recognize Jensen.
Still, Robison went ahead and removed the juror from the panel.
“I don’t want there to be any appearance of impropriety,” Robison said.
It wasn’t clear if the matter will be investigated further by law enforcement.
Follow Paul Shockley on Twitter, @PaulShockleyGJ. Use hashtag #jensentrial.