Amy Senser denied new trial by MN Court of Appeals

6:49 PM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Saying the evidence shows she received a fair trial, the Minnesota Court of Appeals released an opinion Monday that Amy Senser does not deserve a new trial in the hit-and-run death of Anousone Phanthavong.  

A three-judge panel ruled Monday that there was sufficient evidence to convict the wife of former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser, who is currently serving a 41-month prison sentence in connection with Phanthavong's death. He was fatally struck on a Minneapolis freeway exit ramp. Senser maintains she didn't know she had struck a person.

In a 32-page opinion, a three judge Court of Appeals panel stated that although there were a number of abuses of discretion by the District Court, they were not enough to merit a new trial for Senser, who was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide.    

The opinion reads, in part:

"Although the district court abused its discretion by admitting hearsay evidence and failing to disclose a communication from the jury, we conclude, after careful consideration of the entire record, that the errors had no effect on the jury's verdict and that Senser received a fair trial. Because the state presented more than sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Senser knew she hit a person or a vehicle, and because her arguments regarding statutory interpretation, jury instructions, and abuses of discretion are unavailing, we affirm." 

Amy Senser and her attorneys challenged her convictions for criminal vehicular homicide contending that the state's evidence was insufficient to prove that she knew she had hit a person or a vehicle.

She also asserts that the district court erred in interpreting a statute criminalizing failure to report an accident and in instructing the jury on the knowledge requirement underlying her two convictions.

Lastly, the opinion states, Senser claimed that the district court abused its discretion by denying her change-of-venue and sequestration motions, suppressing evidence of the victim's toxicology results, preventing her from presenting a complete defense, admitting hearsay evidence, failing to disclose jury communications, and denying her motion for a Schwartz hearing.

The justices from the Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding:

"Our careful review of the record in its entirety convinces us that Senser received a fair trial. The evidence presented here was more than sufficient to show that she left the scene of an accident despite knowing that she had struck a car or a person. Moreover, the district court properly instructed the jury concerning the charges and acted well within its discretion in resolving the parties' many motions and the evidentiary issues that arose in this hotly contested and high-profile case. Because any abuse of discretion relating to admission of impeachment evidence or the timing of disclosure of the jury's note did not affect Senser's substantial rights or the jury's verdict, these two errors were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt."

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