A date has been set later this month for Amy Senser's attorney to argue that a jury's guilty verdicts against her be tossed out, or that she be granted a new trial.
Hennepin District Judge Daniel Mabley scheduled a hearing for 2:30 p.m. May 31 for Eric Nelson to argue the motion he filed on Friday. Senser was convicted May 3 of two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide for the hit-and-run collision that killed 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong. She faces as much as four years in prison and is to be sentenced July 9.
In the lengthy memo supporting the motion, Nelson cited a potential error in the jury instructions that allowed the jurors to convict Senser on their belief that she thought she struck Phanthavong's vehicle, even though her vehicle did not strike his.
They were told to decide whether Senser, 45, knew she had caused injury, death "or damage to another vehicle." They convicted her on the latter part.
The jury's rationale came to light in a note they gave to Mabley just before the verdicts were read that indicated they convicted Senser because they believed she knew she struck a vehicle, not a person. Nelson had maintained that Senser didn't know she struck Phanthavong as he was putting gas in his stalled car on the Riverside exit ramp of westbound I-94 last August.
Mabley withheld the note from the attorneys until days later. As a result, Nelson also requested a special hearing before the district's chief judge to determine whether Mabley committed misconduct by withholding the note. He argued that Mabley should have shared the note with attorneys "to identify potential confusion amongst the jurors during their deliberations and recognize the error in the jury instructions."
He also alleges "abuses of discretion" by Mabley, in several pretrial rulings, including his denial of a defense motion to allow evidence that Phanthavong had cocaine in his system at the time of the crash.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Deborah Russell has not yet filed a memo in response to Nelson's motion, but will likely argue against it in court.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921