The Minnesota Court of Appeals has concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in the Amy Senser vehicular homicide trial, but the judge's errors were not enough to change the verdict. (Download and read the opinion here.)
Senser was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide in the 2011 hit and run death of Anousone Phanthavong. Prosecutors accused Senser of driving drunk, hitting Phanthavong and then fleeing the scene. Defense attorneys argued that Senser did not know she hit a person.
Senser claimed in her appeal that Judge Daniel Mabley's decision to deny her request to move the proceedings out of Hennepin County, and to deny her request to sequester the jury, denied her a fair trial. Senser felt Mabley erred by not allowing her defense to include Phanthavong's toxicology report. And Senser said Mabley's failure to disclose a written question from jurors during deliberations to her defense attorney was a mistake.
In its opinion released Monday, the court said that while mistakes happened in the courtroom, the outcome would not have been any different and Senser got a fair trial.
"The evidence presented here was more than sufficient to show that she left the scene of an accident despite knowing that she had struck a car or a person," Appeals Court Judge Margaret Chutich wrote.
Senser is serving a 41-month sentence in prison.