Lawyer fears ‘lynch mob’ for Jensen
Prosecutors, police and other agencies should be subject to a gag order because of media coverage in the case of a Palisade mother accused in the deaths of her young sons, her attorney wrote in a court filing.
“In general, there is a large group of people in the community with ‘lynch mob’ mentality about the defendant and this case,” attorney Ed Nugent wrote in a motion, which seeks a gag order during the upcoming prosecution of 24-year-old Heather Lynn Jensen.
Nugent’s motion asks Mesa County District Judge Valerie Robison to order silence, consistent with Colorado attorney rules of professional conduct, on all sides in the case with the exception of “comments regarding the date and time of future court dates and the general nature of such court appearance.”
The District Attorney’s Office has yet to respond in writing. District Attorney Pete Hautzinger declined comment on Tuesday.
In the filing, Nugent notes media have reported on Jensen’s “alleged sexual behavior” and “alleged drug use.” Coverage has also mentioned the October 2012 death of Jensen’s husband, Eric, in a traffic accident in Garfield County. Eric Jensen’s death “is immaterial and irrelevant” to Heather Jensen’s case, Nugent writes.
“The defendant is concerned that continued release of information to the press in this action will substantially prejudice the defendant’s right to receive a fair trial in this action by a group of impartial jurors,” the filing reads.
Nugent has lodged objections to requests for expanded media coverage of the case including camera access to courtrooms. In a separate filing, Nugent asked the judge to seal the public court file in the case.
Publicly available records — including but not limited to an arrest warrant affidavit created by law enforcement — allege Jensen was having sex with a man and smoking marijuana on the night of Nov. 27 on Grand Mesa as her sons, William, 2, and Tyler, 4, 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.
Another publicly available document, reported by The Daily Sentinel on Jan. 18 and drafted by Mesa County Criminal Justice Services caseworkers, said Jensen allegedly failed three court-ordered drug tests in the months prior to the Nov. 27 incident.
Jensen allegedly failed a fourth test for marijuana, violating probation terms, on Dec. 13. She also allegedly failed to show up and produce a urine sample in November 2012.
Dennis Berry, director of Criminal Justice Services, has said Jensen missed her third “check-in” with a caseworker on Nov. 30, dating back to the start of her county supervision in March 2012.
Jensen was under low-level, court-ordered supervision after pleading guilty to domestic violence. She received an 18-month deferred judgment.
Paperwork seeking to revoke Jensen’s deferred judgment was filed on Jan. 3.
Jensen is being held at the Mesa County Jail on $150,000 bond on suspicion of two counts of criminally negligent homicide, two counts of negligent child abuse resulting in death and false reporting. She’s expected before Robison Thursday for formal filing of charges.