, Star Tribune
Judge: Senser's silence can be used against her
- Article by: ABBY SIMONS
- Star Tribune
- April 18, 2012 - 9:45 PM
Amy Senser's long-standing refusal to speak with investigators about the hit-and-run crash that killed a Roseville man can be presented as evidence at her trial next week, a judge ordered Wednesday. District Judge Daniel Mabley also ruled that prosecutors may not question witnesses about Senser's history of alcohol use but may offer evidence of alcohol use on the date she struck Anousone Phanthavong, 38, as he filled his stalled car with gas on an Interstate 94 exit ramp last August.
Senser's attorney, Eric Nelson, has said she didn't know she struck a person when she left the scene that night. Her trial on three counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide begins next week.
Mabley issued orders on 16 motions brought by Nelson and Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Deborah Russell. Other rulings Wednesday include:
Prosecutors may not mention that Phanthavong's family has sued Senser and her husband, former Minnesota Vikings tight end Joe Senser.
Prosecutors may present video clips of pedestrian-vehicle accident re-creations. Nelson claimed they were not an accurate depiction of the crash scene. Russell countered they were meant only to bolster the credibility of an expert witness.
Prosecutors may present as evidence a $7,500 estimate for body repair to Senser's sport-utility vehicle. Nelson said it was not accurate and unfair, while Russell argued the damage shows the amount of force with which Phanthavong was hit.
Senser's defense may not present evidence that Phanthavong had a high level of cocaine in his system when he was killed.
Prosecutors may call as a witness Dr. Rick Sponaugle, medical director of the Florida Detox and Wellness Institute. Sponaugle allegedly had a telephone conversation with Joe Senser the morning after the crash. Russell said Sponaugle would testify that the Sensers saw news of Phanthavong's death on television and that Amy Senser told her husband she was in the area at the time. He also would testify that the Sensers went outside and looked at their SUV parked in the driveway, saw blood on the hood and "panicked." Russell said that it lends credence that Senser knew she hit someone, as do phone calls to her brother requesting advice on attorneys.
If she testifies, Amy Senser may explain that her actions, including refusing to speak to police, were based on her attorney's advice. If so, Mabley will remind the jury that relying on an attorneys' advice "does not absolve the defendant of liability in this particular case."
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday.
Abby Simons 612-673-4921
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