Amy Senser jury may have been confused; defense wants convictions overturned


Amy Senser's jurors may have misunderstood their instructions when convicting her of two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, prompting defense attorney Eric Nelson to ask that the convictions be thrown out.

At the heart of Nelson's contention is a note jurors sent to Hennepin County Judge Daniel Mabley just before her verdict was read on May 3. That note, which wasn't read in court, said, "We believe, [Senser] believed she hit a car or vehicle and not a person."

The glaring problem with the note is that during the trial, no evidence was presented that Senser hit a car. Senser didn't deny that she ran over and killed Anousone Phanthavong last August, but said she initially thought she'd struck a construction barricade, not a person. So why in God's name would jurors write a note stating they believe she thought she struck a vehicle if they were paying attention to the trial?
As the Star Tribune reports, according to the jury instructions in Senser's case, convictions for the two counts of criminal vehicular homicide required "that the defendant knew the accident involved either injury or death to another person or damage to another vehicle."

The jury apparently didn't believe that Senser knew she struck a person, and again, no evidence was presented suggested Senser struck a vehicle. So Nelson argues jurors were confused about their instructions when convicting her of two felonies.

Nelson, in his appeal filing, wrote:

In Ms. Senser's case there was no reason to instruct the jury that Ms. Senser knew she hit a vehicle; this is simply not the offense she was charged with. Further, because there was no evidence that Ms. Senser did hit a vehicle, it would be impossible to establish knowledge for that element as one cannot have actual knowledge of doing something he or she did not do.

Nelson also cites an interview juror Anthony Sather did with KARE 11. When Sather was asked if he thought Senser knew she hit a person, he said, "I couldn't tell you. I mean, it's, it was borderline, the evidence from the defense and the prosecutor; you could have gone either way."

In the filing, Nelson asks Hennepin County judges to throw out the jury's verdict; failing that, he requests a new trial, one in which the jury will hopefully better understand its instructions.

According to sentencing guidelines, Senser's convictions call for her to spend four years in prison. She's currently scheduled to be sentenced on July 9.

Previous coverage:
-- Amy Senser found guilty of two felonies, not guilty of gross negligence
-- Joe Senser loses cool, tells photographers to "get a life"
-- Joe Senser on "Amyworld": Flaking out on picking up kids reflects her 'fierce independence'

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