It's not just the public that's taken a keen interest in the Amy Senser hit and run trial. Other defense attorneys are also watching closely, because the outcome here may influence how they defend similar cases in the future.
And among those legal watchers wandering around the Hennepin County Government Center, there are mixed reactions as to what a third day of deliberations could mean. Some say their experiences are that longer deliberations mean guilty verdicts, others saying they have found longer deliberations typically come back with not guilty verdicts.
In other words, no one has any idea. Only the 12 people in a small, windowless room.
The jury, deciding whether Senser is guilty of three counts of Criminal Vehicular Homicide, deliberated for 13 hours over Tuesday and Wednesday. They picked up again Thursday morning around 8 o'clock, quitting the night before around 7.
They are sequestered, meaning they stay in a hotel, are bussed to and from the courthouse, eat as a group and constantly accompanied by Hennepin County deputies, who take sworn oaths at the end of the trial to guard them.
They weigh two very compelling cases, one presented by prosecutor Deborah Russell, the other by defense attorney Eric Nelson. Russell's case is largely circumstantial, meaning it is a based on a body of circumstances that suggest criminal behavior and appear suspicious. Nelson's case is simpler: that there is simply no evidence that can prove anything.
This may be what is weighing jurors down: that there is an appearance of some type of guilt. But you can't convict on appearances. Appearances are not evidence.
There are odd behaviors, but for each came explanations from Amy Senser. All sounded plausible and none seem disprovable. Her erratic driving on I-94 forty minutes after the accident? She had dropped her cell phone and was trying to fish it out from the seats. That makes sense and there's no way to prove it's not true.
Her deleted text messages from the next day? She testified she deletes messages all the time and that was merely a coincidence. While it looks like it was an act to hiding something incriminating, no one knows what those messages said. And you can't prove it was nothing more than purging reminders of a traumatic day when she discovered what she had done.
No one saw the accident. And no one can say what she saw. No one can say exactly what she felt and heard.
Not one witness came forward to say they saw her drinking or intoxicated or even served her a drink.
On the other hand, the state built a compelling case that argued she should have recognized that she hit something more substantial than a construction barrel. They tried to convince jurors that Amy Senser must have known she hit a person. They framed her hour of driving around after the crash as suspicious behavior, tried to cast doubt that this was simply the normal behavior of a spontaneous and unpredictable personality. They point to her delay in identifying herself as the driver as using legal loopholes to avoid prosecution and if she was innocent, she wouldn't need loopholes.
Appearances versus hard evidence.
And the question for jurors: did they prove anything that can let them, without any doubts, send a 45-year-old woman with no criminal record to prison?