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Murder Victim's Note Helps Convict Husband. A trial court in Wisconsin has convicted Mark Jensen of the 1998 murder of his wife, Julie, based, in part, on a note she left to her neighbor with instructions to give it to police only if she were to die. AP writer Carrie Antlfinger reports in the Washington Post that Julie had grown suspicious of her husband, Mark Jensen, and wanted someone to look into her death after she died. On Dec 3, 1998, Julie was found dead after being poisoned with antifreeze and suffocated. Mark was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide. The Wisconsin Supreme Court decision allowing the evidence, previously noted here, followed the decision in Crawford v. Washington.

Justice Kennedy on citing foreign precedents: In a speech Wednesday night at the Meridian International Center in Washington, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy attempted to justify his reliance on foreign precedent in his 2005 Roper v. Simmons opinion according to this story by AP writer Mark Sherman on sfgate.com. In the Court's 5-4 ruling in 2005, Kennedy relied heavily on the practice of other countries to support his interpretation of the Eighth Amendment.

A Texas Remedy for Overcrowded Jails utilizes a new state law allowing officers to give out tickets for certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses instead of booking offenders in jail. A story by Tanya Eiserer in the Dallas Morning News reports that police officials expect the program to improve response time. Texas police and prosecutors believe that giving out citations for misdemeanors will save taxpayers money by not housing inmates in jail for days.

Utah Law Targets Gang Members: A story by Elizabeth Ziegler in yesterday's Utah Policy Daily reported that the state's House of Representatives has passed SB 65, which would make it a crime for gang members to encourage juveniles to commit crimes. The punishment would be six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill only applies to people who have a history of gang related crimes. Although the measure passed the House with a unanimous vote some members expressed concerns about how law will be enforced.

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Does anyone here have a problem with the note being used as evidence against the husband? While I wholeheartedly agree that a murderer should not get the benefit of silencing a witness, and that there are specific instances where such a note would be relevant (e.g., where a husband argues to the jury that his wife and he had a perfect marriage or where there are specific statements of fact), offering evidence of a naked suspicion that someone is plotting to kill (I don't have the whole letter) seems to present some problems. The quote in the AP article is: "I pray that I am wrong and nothing happens, but I am suspicious of Mark's suspicious behaviors and fear for my early demise." How do you lay a foundation that the out-of-court declarant has personal knowledge that Mark was then plotting her death? Now I understand that it is possible to completely chuck Rule 403 analysis because the killer has, in effect, caused the prejudice, but numerous courts have stated that evidence like this is to be evaluated very carefully because it is like a "voice from the grave".

Maybe most of these issues are state law governed, but the requirement of personal knowledge would seem to me to have some constitutional dimension.

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