Lawyer: Move Jensen venue
Nearly eight months of “massive, pervasive and prejudicial” pretrial publicity could rob accused Palisade mother Heather Jensen of a fair trial in Mesa County, a Grand Junction public defender said in a court motion.
Public Defender Thea Reiff, who represents Jensen, attached a roughly inch-thick stack of news clippings on a change-of-venue motion filed on Monday, seeking to move Jensen’s trial elsewhere. The motion was one of 13 filed by Jensen’s defense. Prosecutors filed nothing on Monday, which was the deadline for pretrial motions in Jensen’s case.
“Articles have repeatedly trumpeted inflammatory facts both relevant and irrelevant to the case itself, including Ms. Jensen’s prior domestic violence conviction, alleged non-compliance probation, failed drug tests, alleged sexual promiscuity, childhood medical prescriptions, and alleged prior neglect of her children,” Reiff wrote in her motion.
Should the judge refuse to move the trial, the defense motion asks for other remedies, such as enlarging the size of the jury pool or letting attorneys strike more potential jurors during jury selection.
Mesa County court administration has said as many as 500 summonses for jury duty could be mailed to Mesa County residents for the trial, scheduled over two weeks starting Oct. 28.
Jensen, 25, pleaded not guilty in June to criminally negligent homicide, child abuse resulting in death and false reporting in the deaths of her sons, William, 2, and Tyler, 4. An arrest warrant affidavit said the boys died after overheating in their mother’s Toyota 4Runner after they were left alone by Jensen on Nov. 27, 2012, on Grand Mesa. Authorities have alleged Jensen was having sex with a man in a nearby vehicle while the boys were dying.
In another motion, Reiff seeks to block testimony about Jensen’s “past parenting and general character.”
Witnesses have told investigators about Jensen’s alleged abuse of opiates following the October 2012 death of her husband and the father of William and Tyler, Eric Jensen. It’s all inadmissible hearsay, the defense argues.
“It should be noted the officers did not see a reason to investigate Ms. Jensen for driving under the influence (on Nov. 27), and there were no prescription medications found during the secured search of her car,” Reiff wrote.
The defense also disputes witnesses who told authorities Jensen appeared “unemotional and disconnected as a parent,” as well as others who said William and Tyler were malnourished, according to the motion.
“(Mesa County forensic pathologist) Robert Kurtzman describes both children as ‘normally developed, well-nourished males,” the filing reads, citing language from a death examination.
The judge should also take measures to preclude testimony from Robert and Diane Mathena, the grandparents of William and Tyler who engaged in a high-profile civil battle on the disposition of the boys’ remains. The Mathenas have told investigators Jensen wasn’t “motherly” and is a “whore,” the defense motion said.
“Any comment on Ms. Jensen’s infidelity in her marriage should be precluded from trial ...” the motion reads.
Other testimony about parenting practices might damage Jensen, the defense argues.
“There is evidence of Ms. Jensen leaving the children in the car once before when visiting a friend referred to as ‘Brian Allison,’ the motion notes. “There is no allegation that misjudging the heat level in the car was at all an issue. Reference to this incident at trial would amount to improper character evidence.”
Mesa County Sheriff’s investigators illegally obtained information about Jensen’s prescription drug use from local Walmart and Walgreen’s pharmacies, a defense motion alleges. Pharmacies sent Jensen’s prescription records to investigators after the agency provided them with a “sheriff’s memorandum.” The disclosures violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, while the records shouldn’t be allowed at trial, the defense argues.
“Ms. Jensen did not consent to any disclosure of her private medical information,” the filing said. “No court order permitted any disclosure of medical information in this case.”
The Walmart and Walgreen’s pharmacies alleged to have surrendered the records are not identified by address.
Separately, Jensen’s defense is seeking to suppress “any” incriminating statement made during the course of the investigation. The motion claims Jensen never received a valid Miranda warning advising of her right to remain silent. This covers a period over several hours on Nov. 27, 2012, when officers responded to the initial 911 call on Grand Mesa, through her first formal interview at the Sheriff’s Department that same night, the motion said.