Bond set for man convicted in wife's death after poisoning

Conviction overturned because note from wife was improperly introduced as evidence

By Greg Moore
Associated Press

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — A judge set a $1.2 million bond Wednesday for a Wisconsin man once convicted in his wife’s death after prosecutors said he poisoned her with antifreeze in an effort to make her death look like a suicide.

Mark Jensen was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 2008, but he recently won appeals that set up a retrial in Kenosha County. He hadn’t posted bail by late afternoon, and a public defender who appeared with him in court said Jensen “had no resources” in arguing for a substantially lower amount.

In his ruling, Judge Chad Kerkman said that since the accusation against Jensen hadn’t changed, it made sense to maintain a high bond. He used the previous amount as a guideline and said “the bond already set is appropriate.”

The decision favored the state, as special prosecutor Bob Jambois had argued for a high bond, noting that it had been set at $1.2 million before. Jambois said a previous judge had characterized Jensen’s actions as a “crime so enormous, so monstrous, so unspeakably cruel” that he should be treated accordingly. He also said that Jensen had been violent and accused him of first poisoning, then asphyxiating his wife.

Jensen’s conviction was overturned by a federal judge, and an appeals court panel upheld the ruling late last year. The decision said a note from his wife, Julie, implicating him in her death was improperly allowed into evidence.

Julie Jensen’s body was found in 1998 in the Pleasant Prairie home she shared with her husband and their two sons. Her death, initially considered a suicide, started a case that took more than nine years to go to trial.

The defense said Julie Jensen was depressed and killed herself after framing her husband.

Prosecutors said Jensen killed his wife to make room for his mistress and that he searched the Internet for ways to make her death look like a suicide.

A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said late last year that Julie Jensen’s handwritten note, which said “if anything happens to me, he would be my first suspect,” violated Mark Jensen’s constitutional right to face his accusers.

Federal public defender Craig Albee, who has represented Jensen during his appeal process, argued for bond to be set at $50,000. He said Jensen had no criminal record, since his homicide conviction had been overturned. Albee also worked to undermine the strength of the prosecution’s case, saying they lost a “powerful piece of evidence.” Albee said that the state had characterized previously the note as a “make or break issue” in the case.

Jensen was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles, and he was returned to the custody of the Kenosha County Jail, jail administrator Lt. Robert Croeker said.

Wisconsin public defender Deja Vishny has been assigned to represent Jensen going forward.

A status hearing has been set for May.