On February 21, 2008, following a six-week trial, a jury found Mark D. Jensen guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in the December 3, 1998 death of his wife Julie. Jensen’s conviction was affirmed by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied his petition for review. On August 24, 2011, Jensen, who is currently serving a life sentence at Dodge Correctional Institution, filed a petition seeking federal relief from his state conviction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Jensen claims that evidence of a series of accusations against him made by his wife before her death was admitted at trial in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him and that the erroneous admission of this evidence had a substantial effect in determining the jury’s verdict. He also argues that his due process right to be tried by an impartial judge was violated because the judge who presided over his trial had already found that he was guilty of the very crime for which he was on trial. After a number of extensions due to the size of the record, the case has been fully briefed and is now ready for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Jensen’s petition will be granted.
|For the reasons set forth above, the Court concludes that Jensen’s rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment were violated when the trial court admitted Julie Jensen’s letter and testimonial statements to police at his trial and that the errors were not harmless. The decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to the contrary constitutes an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. It thus follows that Jensen’s petition for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 should be granted. Because the Court finds that the admission of Julie Jensen’s testimonial statements in violation of the Confrontation Clause was not harmless error, it is not necessary to address Jensen’s due process argument.
Jensen is therefore ordered released from custody unless, within 90 days of the date of this decision, the State initiates proceedings to retry him. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly. In the event Respondent elects to appeal, the judgment will be stayed pending disposition of the appeal.
Mark is interested in an attorney who will come forward to help him with his forthcoming legal affairs following his release.