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Amy Senser, with her husband Joe Senser

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

Amy Senser trial won't be moved

  • Article by: MATT McKINNEY
  • Star Tribune
  • March 22, 2012 - 5:30 AM

A judge on Wednesday denied Amy Senser's request to move her case out of Hennepin County, meaning her trial is expected to stay on track for next month.

The order comes nearly two weeks after her attorney, Eric Nelson, requested the move and one day after Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Deborah Russell filed a motion opposing the change.

Nelson had argued that media coverage of Senser's case made it impossible for her to get a fair trial in Hennepin County. He pointed to sinister comments made on blogs and news websites as evidence the coverage had influenced people's opinions about the case. He also objected to comments made by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman at news conferences, saying Freeman inappropriately spoke about facts of the case.

Nelson did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday. His motion requesting a change of venue pointed to vile comments made online about Senser, some of them including her home address. One anonymous writer typed "Rope. Tree. No admission fee."

Nelson also objected to Freeman's comment to reporters that it was irrefutable that Senser knew she had hit a person.

"That's a fact that is in dispute in this case," Nelson said this week.

Nelson had asked that his client's criminal vehicular homicide trial, set for April 23, be moved to Kandiyohi County, about 90 miles west of Minneapolis. If that had happened, the trial date would have been pushed back for logistical reasons.

Russell filed the county's objection this week, saying the trial should stay in Hennepin County and that it's difficult to know who made sinister online comments about the case, who is reading them or whether they have any influence. The objection pointed to precedents in Minnesota law that said widespread publicity about a case does not require a venue change. It's only when that publicity somehow taints or unfairly influences potential jurors that it becomes grounds for moving a trial, she argued.

District Judge Daniel Mabley's one-page order does not specify why he denied the request but indicates he will write a memorandum explaining his reasoning once the trial gets underway.

Freeman's office declined to comment on the ruling.

Senser has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Her defense has argued that there isn't enough evidence to prove she knew she struck a person when she hit Anousone Phanthavong with her Mercedes Benz SUV Aug. 23 on an exit ramp of Interstate 94 in Minneapolis. Phanthavong, 38, died at the scene.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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