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Murder trial – Jun 6: Accused murderer confesses on the stand

Defence contends Jensen lacked the sophistication to remain silent in police custody

Accused murderer Kenneth Jensen took the stand Jun 3 in BC Supreme Court and admitted under questioning from Crown counsel that he killed George Kong.

“Yes,” Jensen answered quietly when Crown Counsel Rusty Antonuk asked him first if he knew he did a “horrible thing” and then if he killed Kong.

“Yes,” Jensen also replied when Antonuk asked if he cleaned up the “mess” at Kong’s condo.

Jensen’s lawyer Philip Riddell objected, contending that the ongoing voir dire is supposed to focus on whether the accused’s rights were violated while making his alleged confessions to police.

Riddell sought to demonstrate that Jensen lacked the sophistication and education to protect his rights while in police custody. Jensen testified earlier that he failed Grade 9 a few times and was only in Grade 10 for a month or two. He said the only other training he underwent was to use a forklift. Asked if he read a lot, Jensen said he read his first book in jail.

The accused also testified that he had no criminal record, and had never dealt with a lawyer or been handcuffed until his arrest for murder Feb 3, 2007.

Asked about his knowledge of the criminal justice system, Jensen pointed to the television series CSI.

Jensen testified he felt nervous, scared, unsure and fearful when he was arrested. He said he was concerned about not knowing a lawyer and about how he was going to afford one.

Antonuk asked Jensen if he was told that he had the right to retain a lawyer “in private and without delay.” Jensen said he was.

Antonuk pointed out that Jensen was informed enough of his rights to be able to advise a cellmate — who turned out to be an undercover cop — to get immediate access to counsel.

Antonuk also referred the court to the videotaped interview between Jensen and Sgt Dave Attew in which Attew informs the accused that he is not obligated to say anything. At one point in the interrogation, Jensen tells Attew that his lawyer told him not to talk.

Legal aid lawyer Greg Lanning also took the stand at the voir dire. Lanning told the court he has “no live memory” of a phone call Jensen made to him in February 2007, except for some notes that include the accused’s name, age, and the type of charge. He explained repeatedly, however, that his main advice to anyone who is charged, from shoplifting to murder, is to “clam up.”

In the case of serious crimes like murder, he told the court that he repeats that advice slowly three or four times during a phone call.

Both the Crown and defense counsel, citing several examples of case law, spent the fourth day of the voir dire presenting their respective arguments regarding the admissibility of Jensen’s statements to police, particularly the videotaped interview he did with Sgt Attew after his arrest Feb 3.

Riddell again raised the question of Jensen’s degree of sophistication, saying his client is lacking in both life experience and experience in dealing with the criminal justice system. He argued that while Jensen was told of his right to remain silent, the issue is whether Jensen was given all the information he needed to be able to exercise that right.

Riddell maintained, for example, that Jensen was not informed that police may lie or use trickery to get him to talk.

Antonuk countered that Jensen was not “broken down” by Attew in the post-arrest interview. He maintained that Jensen understood he didn’t have to speak to police, nor write a letter of apology to Kong’s family, which he ended up doing as well.

Lanning’s instructions to “clam up” were not complicated to follow, Antonuk added.

The voir dire is expected to wrap up Friday with a ruling from Justice Mary Humphries on the admissibility of Jensen’s alleged confessions to police. The trial will begin immediately afterwards.