What the Amy Senser jury has to consider - KMSP-TV

What the Amy Senser jury has to consider

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

Jurors have retired for the evening, meaning deliberations in the hit-and-run trial of Amy Senser will continue into Thursday.

As jurors decide whether Amy Senser is guilty of three different counts of criminal vehicular homicide, they weigh a lack of direct evidence that the defense has pointed to and all the circumstantial evidence the prosecution has built a case around.

Here's how it breaks down:

COUNT 1: Fleeing the Scene of an Accident

Defense attorney Eric Nelson argues there is no proof Amy Senser knew she hit a person. Her own testimony claims she did not see Anousone Phanthavong, nor does she recall even seeing his Honda Accord on the side of the ramp with its emergency flashers on. Therefore, she did not flee because she did not know.

Prosecutor Deborah Russell argues Senser knew she hit something -- and she had to have known it was something worthy of her attention because of the severity of the crash. Even though Senser would not know the difference between hitting a barrel and hitting a human body, the injuries to Phanthavong and damage to Senser's SUV show the impact would have been significant, and any reasonable or unimpaired driver should have stopped.

COUNT 2: Failure to Notify

The defense says the Sensers turned the SUV over to State Patrol investigators the next day. Joe Senser quickly figured out the damage did not look like Amy hit a barrel or cone and quickly associated it with news of a fatality on the Riverside Avenue exit ramp. They turned over the vehicle with the full stipulation this was the one involved in that accident.

The prosecution argues that Amy Senser did not come forward as the driver of that vehicle for ten days and only then at the insistence of her step-daughter Brittani, who was furious that she was being viewed as a potential suspect. They say that time frame is a failure to notify, and that identifying the vehicle alone does not fulfilling that legal obligation.

COUNT 3: Gross Negligence

Nelson told the jurors this there is no evidence Senser was either intoxicated that night or on the phone at the time of the accident. He said she also was not driving out of her traffic lane. She did make a call at 11:08 p.m., but it came only 8 seconds before the first 911 call. Therefore, it appears she made that call after the impact, not before. Also, the damage to her vehicle indicates she was driving right down the middle of the exit lane.

Prosecutor Russell argues Senser should have seen Phanthavong, presenting evidence he would have been directly in her headlights. She also pointed to the testimony of the 911 callers, who said they immediately noticed his hazard lights, which caused them to slow down. Then they immediately saw Phanthavong, now lying on the road, 50 feet further down the ramp.

Nelson says Senser's actions after the accident -- which include driving home, parking in the driveway and falling asleep on the front porch --- are not those of a guilty person. Senser's family said she often spent summer nights on that couch.

Russell, in her most pointed statement of the trial, said that is the behavior of someone who is intoxicated and went home and passed out. She also argued that Senser had no choice but to park in the driveway because Joe Senser testified the garage was full of boxes.

Russell also says Senser's further acts -- which include deleting her text messages from that night and the next day, giving her clothes away, and changing her hair color -- all appear like a guilty person trying to avoid prosecution.

Nelson argued there is no direct proof. Senser testified that she often deleted text messages and she no longer wanted to have the clothes from a traumatic night.

The jury, comprised of seven men and five women, resumed deliberations at 9 a.m. Wednesday. They are sequestered, which means they will keep living in a hotel until they reach a verdict.

NOTE: The judge also told jurors they can consider a lesser charge of Careless Driving. This is considered count four. The three elements are required for a conviction on that charge are:

  1. She operated a vehicle on a street or highway.
  2. She operated it carelessly or heedlessly.
  3. This took place on or around August 23, 2011.
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