This is an audio case brief of State v. Jensen : 46 P.3d 536 (Idaho Ct. App.2002). The audio brief provides a full case analysis. However a written summary of the case is provided below.
In 1993 Jensen married her second husband with whom she had no children. She was devoted to her marriage and desperately wanted to have a child with her husband, but her pregnancy attempts were unsuccessful. In July of 1999, after nearly 6 years of marriage, her husband left her. She was devastated by the breakup of her marriage and according to her friends cried uncontrollably and stopped taking care of herself. Jensen wanted to win her husband back by all means necessary. She especially became enraged when she found out that her husband had moved into an apartment with another women. Jensen then plotted to murder the other woman. She planned to do so by injecting the other woman with a lethal dose of insulin.
To carry out the murder, Jensen employed the help of her niece and her nieces ex-boyfriend. She provided money to her niece to purchase methamphetamine. She also instructed her niece’s ex-boyfriend to obtain firearm for use in intimidating and empowering the victim. Jensen purchased disguises so that she and her accomplices would not be recognized. The night before the murder, the three got together and rehearsed their roles several times.
On the morning of September 9, 1999, Jensen and her accomplices drove to the victim’s home. They waited until Jensen’s husband had left for work and then entered the victim’s home. While one of her accomplices retrained the victim, Jensen injected a lethal dose of insulin into the victim’s arm. To make it appear as though the victim died of a drug overdose. Jensen injected the victim with methamphetamine and placed methamphetamine in the victim’s purse. For approximately one hour, Jensen and her accomplices watched the victim suffer from the effects of the insulin and waited for her to die. When Jensen was satisfied that the victim would not survive, Jensen and her accomplice fled the apartment, leaving the victim’s three year old daughter alone with her dying mother. The victim had 5 other children who were not home at the time of her murder.
As part of a plea deal, Jensen plead guilty to first degree murder. Prosecutors withdrew their intent to seek the death penalty. Jensen was then sentenced to a determinate life term in prison, that is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jensen appealed her sentence to the Idaho court of appeals. And her reason for the appeal was that her sentence was excessively harsh.
The Idaho court of appeals reviewed her case to determine whether Jensen’s sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole was excessively harsh.
A sentence of confinement is reasonable if it appears at the time of the sentencing that the confinement was necessary to accomplish the primary objective of protecting society and to achieve any or all of the related goals of deterrence, rehabilitation or retribution applicable to a given case.
To apply this law to the facts of the case, the court considered three factors;
The Nature Of The Offense:
The court found the nature of the offense to be particularly heinous. Jensen and her accomplices planned and rehearsed the murder. The record indicated that the victim, a mother of 6 young children pleaded with Jensen not to inject her with methamphetamine because she was allergic to it. And despite the victims plea for mercy Jensen injected her with insulin and methamphetamine. Jensen who was a registered nurse knew how to and could have reversed the effects of the insulin at any time but instead stood and watched for an hour until she was satisfied that the victim could not call for help. Jensen knew infecting the victim with insulin when she did not need it would be fatal and virtually undetectable. Based on these findings, the court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion.
Character of The Offender
Jensen was a devoted member of her church community where she mentored kids. She was of average intelligence. And her coworkers, including her supervisors described her as a very capable, caring and a dependable worker who had a jolly and a positive attitude towards work. For many who knew Jensen, committing murder was out of character for her.
However, Jensen’s husband painted a different picture of Jensen’s character. According to her husband, while he and Jensen were still living together, his first wife succeed in increasing his monthly child support payments after his attempt to gain custody of his children failed. Jensen’s husband stated that Jensen became very upset and angry, threatening to kill his first wife in the same manner as the victim in this case, by injecting her with insulin. Jensen’s husband further stated that Jensen brought syringes home from work to carry out her threat but that he disposed of them in a dumpster. Additionally a woman who had also lived with Jensen’s husband testified that after the murder, Jensen called her to demand of the whereabouts of her husband. The woman said she felt threatened by Jensen because Jensen recited personal information about her like her address, the description of her previous home, the name of her son, how old he was an where he went to school. She testified that this was personal information she believe Jensen would not have been able to obtain without doing some investigations.
The court found that based on the egregious nature of Jensen’s crime, coupled with Jensen’s conduct before and after the murder, a determinant life sentence was justified.
Protection of Public Interest
Jensen displayed a pattern of threatening and intimidating behavior, particularly towards those who became involved with her husband. Given Jensen’s escalating of violence, society must be protected.
The district court’s sentence of a determinate life in prison was reasonable. The district court therefore did not abuse its discretion.