Some of the details we wished to convey could not be shared in court.
Having heard that I'd been on jury duty, an out-of-town relative asked if we'd "put the bad guy away." I thought for a few moments and told her that I didn't think the defendant was a bad person, but that she had made some very bad choices.
I'd like to share what I told her so that Amy Senser's children can hear it, too.
I shared that Ms. Senser had accidentally and tragically killed a pedestrian and that she had left the scene and delayed reporting her involvement. She was convicted of two felony charges: failure to stop at the time of the accident and failure to notify authorities right away.
It is the details of the first charge that I wish to share. It stated that Senser had failed to stop at the scene of an accident knowing that her accident had involved either 1) injury or death to another person or 2) damage to another vehicle. She needed to be found guilty of either of those things -- but not necessarily both.
The jury convicted on the second part of this charge -- unanimously believing that Senser knew that she had hit something significant, something more significant than a pothole or a construction barrel, and that she had left the scene believing she had hit a car.
The majority of the jurors, however, did not have enough evidence to believe that she knew at the time of the accident that she'd hit a person.
As a jury, we did believe that at least by the next day Senser knew she had been involved in the accident that killed Anousone Phanthavong. Her failure to notify law enforcement right away of her involvement was the second guilty verdict. We also found her guilty of careless driving, but not of gross negligence.
Many of the jurors wanted Senser to know the distinction in our determination on Charge 1. We sent a note to the judge asking to share this during the reading of the verdicts. Unfortunately, our note could not be shared in court.
Subsequent media coverage has reported that we found that Senser "knew she hit a person." I wanted to provide some context for her children and her community about how the jury arrived at the guilty verdict for Charge 1.
There was not sufficient evidence for a jury determination that Senser had left the scene of the accident believing that there was an injured person lying in the Riverside ramp.
She should she have stopped right away, and she should have come forward as soon as she knew she'd been involved in a fatal accident. She also should have been more forthcoming in court. Why she didn't do these things, we'll never know.
Did she knowingly leave the victim at the scene? In our justice system, a person is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. The jury did not determine that she left the scene knowing that she had struck Mr. Phanthavong.
This accident was a horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to the victim's family.
Amy Senser is the only person who knows the whole truth of that night. She will live the rest of her life knowing that she took the life of another human being, and she will pay for the decisions that she made following the accident.
I hope that this small clarification of the jury's determination will be helpful to Senser's children and family.
Kathryn Richmond lives in Maple Plain.