Ruling: Jensen jury trial stays put
Palisade mother Heather Jensen will stand trial in Grand Junction, a Mesa County judge ruled Tuesday.
District Judge Valerie Robison denied a defense motion seeking change of venue, saying Jensen’s defense hasn’t met legal steps needed to move the trial out of Mesa County. Under Colorado law, the defense must submit one or more affidavits to support their case for a new venue, the judge said.
“In this case, no such affidavit or stipulation has been presented,” Robison’s ruling said. “Put simply, the defendant has failed to make the required showing which would entitle her to a change of venue.”
Even if the required filings were made, attorneys haven’t yet tried to select a jury, she said.
“In short, the court cannot make a determination whether the defendant has been actually prejudiced to the extent that venue should be changed without receiving responses from prospective jurors regarding the effect of pretrial publicity,” Robison said.
Jensen’s defense had argued the trial should be moved because of “massive, pervasive and prejudicial” publicity over a period of 10 months. Some 400 jury summonses for the trial, significantly larger than most Mesa County criminal trials, were mailed in late September.
Jensen, 25, is scheduled for trial over two weeks starting Oct. 28 on charges of criminally negligent homicide, child abuse resulting in death and false reporting in connection with the deaths of her sons, William, 2, and Tyler, 4. They died after overheating in their mother’s Toyota 4Runner on Grand Mesa on Nov. 27, 2012.
In a separate ruling issued on Tuesday, Robison said she’ll wait until trial to rule on whether two points of testimony will be heard by the jury.
Jensen’s defense had sought prevent the jury from hearing testimony that Jensen allegedly left her children unattended in her vehicle on occasions prior to the incident on Grand Mesa that led to the boys’ deaths. Prosecutors asserted in another motion that Jensen, in her recorded interview with law enforcement, told investigators she would “never leave her children in a car alone,” Robison’s order noted.
The defense also sought to block testimony about Jensen’s alleged past use of opiates.
“If the defense or prosecution anticipates (during trial) the evidence may become relevant, they must approach and a bench conference shall be held outside the presence of the jury to address the issue,” Robison said. The deadline for a plea agreement in the case was Tuesday.