- Victim Assistance
- Consumer Protection
- Media Center
- Topical Index
MADISON - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced the Wisconsin Supreme Court today adopted the doctrine of "forfeiture by wrongdoing" in a Wisconsin Department of Justice pretrial appeal in the homicide prosecution of Mark Jensen, who is accused of killing his wife Julie in Pleasant Prairie in 1998. The ruling is expected to have a lasting impact in the prosecutions of domestic violence and other cases in which defendants intimidate victims from testifying.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a letter to police written by poisoning victim Julie Jensen can be admitted against her husband in his homicide trial if the prosecutor can demonstrate to the circuit court by a preponderance of the evidence that Mark Jensen killed his wife. The Court also affirmed that statements Julie Jensen made to a school teacher and to her neighbor are "non-testimonial" under the United States Supreme Court's Crawford decision and can be admitted at Jensen's trial.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office handled the appeal, hailed the Court's adoption of the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing. "The Court's decision provides a needed tool to prosecutors who seek to introduce statements of a witness who is unavailable due to the defendant's wrongdoing," Van Hollen said. "This decision will make it more difficult for defendants to intimidate or undertake other wrongful means to prevent a witness from testifying and later argue that they are being denied a fair trial because they did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the very witness they caused to be unavailable."
The "forfeiture by wrongdoing" doctrine states that a defendant cannot complain that he was denied the constitutional right to confront a witness when the defendant's wrongful conduct prevented the declarant from being available for cross-examination at trial.
Julie Jensen, a homemaker and mother of two, died of ethylene glycol poisoning in her Pleasant Prairie home in 1998. Four years later, the Kenosha County District Attorney charged her husband Mark with murdering Julie. In 2004, Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder ruled that a letter Julie wrote to a Pleasant Prairie officer voicing her suspicions that her husband was trying to kill her could not be admitted against Mark Jensen because he was unable to cross-examine Julie, but that oral statements Julie made to her son's teacher and a neighbor were admissible.
Jensen's trial will be held in Kenosha County Circuit Court. Former Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Jambois has been appointed special prosecutor.
This was a pretrial appeal. Jensen enjoys a presumption of innocence, and the State will be required to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The State of Wisconsin was represented in the Supreme Court by Assistant Attorney General Margie Moeller.