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In Wisconsin -vs- Mark D. Jensen, the state of Wisconsin convicted Mr. Mark Jensen of preliberated and deliberated murder - a charge of first-degree intentional homicide.

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State of wisconsin -vs- mark Jensen

Legal Analyst & Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney Christopher t. Van Wagner

Attorney Christopher T. Van Wagner, who was not involved in the Mark Jensen murder trial, but rather kept a watchful eye on it for Court-TV. Attorney Van Wagner frequently appears as a legal analyst on Court-TV (now CNN Crime), Channel 3000, ABC News and has also appeared on Good Morning America, as well as local stations (C3K, NBC, & ABC). Attorney Van Wagner is a former federal prosecutor (Madison, Wisconsin) and state prosecutor (Trenton, Jersey). He has represented people accused of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide, Murder and Conspiracy.

Jensen Jury Delivers Verdict: Guilty of Murder

ELKHORN, WI. 21 FEBRUARY 2008. Mark D. Jensen was convicted of murder, (first degree intentional homicide charge), a Class A Felony under Wisconsin laws.

Mandatory Lifetime Imprisonment

First degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory sentence for lifetime imprisonment. Under Wisconsin sentencing laws, a person imprisoned for a lifetime MAY become eligible for parole after serving at least 20 years. If eligible, Mark Jensen would have to make application for parole. At the parole hearing, Julie Jensen's family could protest his release, and the decision of whether to grant parole would be at the discretion of the administrative law judge, but subject to judicial review under certain circumstances.

Appeal For Murder Conviction

Under Wisconsin law, Mark Jensen has an automatic right to appeal. He must first file a motion for post conviction relief with the Walworth County Circuit Court stating all appealable issues. If the Walworth County Wisconsin Circuit Court disagrees with Mark Jensen, then he can file a direct appeal to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals without making application.

Reversed Murder Convictions

If Jensen were to appeal and win (his murder conviction reversed), the prosecuting attorney would likely try him again (double jeopardy would not apply).

First Degree Intentional Homicide

Mark Jensen was charged with premeditated murder of his wife, Julie C. Jensen, who was found dead in their Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin home on December 3, 1998. The information asserted that Mark Jensen murdered his wife by causing her to ingest antifreeze; however, during testimony at trial, evidence showed that suffocation was the cause of death.

It is important to keep in mind that a person cannot be tried in the media, rather they are tried in a court of law. The jury sees and hears all of the evidence in a case, but the media sees a portion of that evidence, hears a part of the testimony, and is at a disadvantaged viewpoint to truly assess the trial proceedings. The criminal charge was not the conviction; rather the jury found Mark Jensen guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The information below is only intended to point out some of the highlights in Wisconsin law relative to 1st Degree Intentional Homicide.

Deliberations Beginning

For information about jury deliberations, please refer to Jury Deliberations.

Information About the mark jensen murder trial

For information about the charges against Mr. Jensen, please refer to State of Wisconsin vs. Mark D. Jensen. For information about Wisconsin's First Degree Intentional Homicide statute, please refer to Murder, Intentional Homicide, Felony Charges, or Wisconsin Statutes. The trial is being held at Walworth County Circuit Court.

Closing Arguments Live on CNN

Closing arguments are live online at, with information available in CNN BLOG.

Premeditated & Deliberate Murder

Under Wisconsin laws, premeditated & deliberated murder is First Degree Intentional Homicide. In order to sustain a conviction (guilty verdict), the prosecuting attorney must prove that it was Mark Jensen's intent to cause the death of his wife, Julie Jensen, that he planned her murder, that he deliberated over his plan or the thought of murdering her, and that his acts were the actual cause of her death.


Under Wisconsin laws, planning a murder is not committing the crime of murder. In fact, planning a murder is not a persay crime (it is not a crime in and of itself absent any other act). However, if an act is taken towards furthering that plan, the act of planning would go to proving intent - the mens rea of the crime - regardless of whether the planning occurred over a period of years, months, weeks or minutes. An attempted murder even if not completed is charged as a completed crime under Wisconsin law.

Intent is the "mens rea" of the crime. Mens rea means the culpable mind or a mind with a criminal intention.


Deliberation is the reconsideration or turning over the thought in the mind of the person who planned the murder. Deliberations can occur in a fraction of a second - a second guess or thought - or over a very long period of time. A prosecuting attorney will try to show that even a hesitation is a deliberation of the murder act. See also jury deliberations.

Cause of death

Intent must exist at the time of the act, and that act must be the actual cause of the resulting death. If the act is not the cause of the resulting death, then the jury can find that criminal liability for the resulting death does not exist and therefore the alleged murder defendant cannot be guilty of the crime of murder.

Did Mark Jensen cause the death of Julie Jensen? That is a causation question that will be addressed by both the prosecuting attorney and the defense lawyer, and one that only the jury can answer.

right to trial by jury of your peers

The Constitution of the United States of America perserves every citizen's right to a trial by jury. That right is perserved by the Constitution so that every person may confront his or her accusors. "Confrontation" by legal definition means the right to cross examine the witness. However, on February 15, 2008, the Walworth County Circuit Court ruled on a motion from the defense counsel that in the Mark Jensen trial, Mr. Jensen will not have that right in reference to a letter allegedly written by the victim, his wife, Julie Jensen. :: Wisconsin Circuit Court Record ::

Murder Defenses

First, it is important to remember that all citizens are innocent until proven guilty. Second, no jury should find a person guilty of a crime unless that jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. And third, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the defendant, to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

With that said, the prosecuting attorney must prove intent, act and causation. Any defense to First Degree Intentional Homicide would seek to negate intent to commit any murder, negate the act, or negate that the act caused the death. For example, negligence can establish that it was not the defendant's intent to cause that death, but it can also establish criminal negligence. As well, intent transfers, so if a person intends to kill anyone, that intent transfers to the resulting death. If a reasonable person would not have known that her act would result in death, establishing intent and an act causing death may be very difficult for the prosecution to do.

Causation means that the act done by the defendant resulted in the death. If a person is dying from a heart attack before being shot with a gun, and the heart attack is ruled as the imminent cause of death, criminal liability may not exist for the person who fired the gun shot. Those types of defenses are called intervening acts, but whether or not an intervening act is found to be the cause of death depends on the circumstances.

Mitigating circumstances such as provocation (see adequate provation and heat of passion crimes), necessity to prevent a felony, or a good faith mistake of fact do not relieve the accused of criminal liability, rather the crime of First Degree Intentional Homicide is mitigated down to the lesser charge of Second Degree Intentional Homicide (previously known as Manslaughter).

Murder Penalties

First Degree Intentional Homicide is a Class A Felony punishable by a mandatory lifetime prison sentence. The jury decides whether or not the defendant is guilty of murder, and if the defendant is found guilty of murder.

See also:
Homicide | Intentional Homicide | Murder | Felony Murder
Negligent Homicide | Vehicular Homicide | Intoxicated Vehicular Homicide | Reckless Homicide