The attorney for Amy Senser is scheduled to argue the case for overturning her criminal vehicular homicide convictions before the Minnesota Court of Appeals in April.
The three-judge panel will hear the case at 10 a.m. April 24, according to a scheduling order filed Tuesday. After a series of briefs over several months arguing Senser’s guilt and innocence, her attorney, Eric Nelson, will square off in person with Lee Barry, senior assistant Hennepin County attorney, in front of the court.
In a 20-page brief filed Monday, Nelson disputed claims filed by the prosecution two weeks ago that circumstantial evidence points toward Senser’s guilt, including deleted text messages, discarded clothing, and her husband’s concern immediately after he learned Anousone Phanthavong, 38, had been killed Aug. 23, 2011, on the Riverside Avenue exit ramp on I-94.
Nelson, who has long maintained Senser did not know she hit a person when she left the scene that night, said that evidence is inconsistent with guilt.
Senser, 46, the wife of former Minnesota Vikings star Joe Senser, was convicted by a jury last May of two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide —one for leaving the scene of the accident, one for failing to call for help. She was acquitted of a third count alleging gross negligence. She is serving a 3½-year prison sentence.
In the brief, which includes transcripts from testimony by Senser and accident reconstructionists, along with photographs from the accident scene, Nelson argues that Senser never saw Phanthavong or his vehicle when she struck him that night while he was putting gas in his stalled car. Her behavior afterward, he said, is irrelevant to what she knew at the time of the crash.
“Simply put, [the prosecution’s] brief utilizes vague presumptions about the manner, force and sound of the impact ... to establish that Ms. Senser should have known, at the time of the accident, that she had hit Mr. Phanthavong,” he wrote.
Nelson also argued that Senser’s conviction should be overturned because Judge Daniel Mabley erred when he suppressed evidence that Phanthavong had cocaine in his system at the time of the crash. During his ruling, Mabley said there was no evidence that the drug affected Phanthavong’s actions or led to the accident.
Nelson, however, argued that the drug was an influence, citing when Phanthavong ran out of gas on the freeway ramp.
“It is apparent that his impairment made him unable to make reasonable judgments regarding his own safety, which directly contributed to the tragic and fatal accident,” Nelson wrote.