Saturday, February 26, 2011

Australia: Man acquitted on appeal after suppression of evidence in first trial

A MAN accused of murdering his elderly father walked free yesterday after almost seven years in jail. A Supreme Court jury acquitted Douglas Jensen four years after another jury found him guilty of murdering his father then making it look like a suicide.

Yesterday's verdict, after three days' deliberation by a jury of six men and six women, finally ended a legal battle that began more than 11 years ago.

Mr Jensen, 45, pleaded not guilty and was acquitted of both a charge of murdering his father and an alternative charge of assisting an offender. Marius Jensen, a 75-year-old bee-keeper, was shot in the head while sitting at the kitchen table of his home at Tarrington, near Hamilton, on February 2, 2000.

The jury that freed his son yesterday was told that a book called Forensic Clues To Murder was found among Douglas Jensen's collection of crime books after his father's death. The jury was not told the book had a chapter about the shooting murder of a person at a kitchen table, staged to appear as a suicide.

Evidence about that chapter was heard by a jury that convicted Mr Jensen in 2007, but was ruled inadmissible in the trial that ended yesterday on the grounds it was more prejudicial than probative.

Mr Jensen spent more than two years in jail on remand before being found guilty in 2007 and has been in custody ever since. He was sentenced to a minimum 16 years after being convicted, but was granted a retrial in 2009 after representing himself in an appeal.

The three appeal judges granted him a retrial because the Crown's refusal to call Mr Jensen's brother, Colin, as a material witness for the prosecution caused a miscarriage of justice. The Court of Appeal ruled defence lawyers should have been given the chance to question Colin Jensen about his father's state of mind and whether he had the motive and opportunity to kill him.

Mr Jensen gasped loudly when yesterday's verdict was announced in the Supreme Court at Geelong, then slumped to his seat in the dock, choking back tears and shaking violently. He refused to comment after the verdict or say whether he would return to the family property.

Mr Jensen's older brother, Colin - accused by defence counsel of being the real killer - lives at the property, which the brothers inherited after their father's death.

Douglas Jensen told police he heard a bang the day his father died and found him on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood. The unusual weapon that fired the fatal shot - a sawn-off shotgun converted to a home-made .38 pistol - was found beside the body.

Defence counsel Chris Dane, QC, told the jury suicide was the obvious cause of Marius Jensen's death. He said the beekeeper was lonely, depressed and facing financial ruin because his bees were infected with a disease he failed to disclose to friends and authorities.

Original report here

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