Amy Senser: 'I finally get to speak'

Amy Senser and attorney Eric Nelson
Amy Senser and her attorney, Eric Nelson, photographed inside the atrium of the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday, April 30, 2012.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Amy Senser concluded testifying Monday afternoon, after being cross-examined by the prosecution in her hit-and-run vehicular homicide trial.

She said the day after the accident, after she read a story about the hit-and-run, she wondered how someone could not know they had hit someone. "I just never saw him," she said, referring to the victim, and broke down sobbing.

After she took the witness stand today, the first question defense attorney Eric Nelson asked his client Amy Senser was, "Are you nervous?"

"Terrified," she replied. "But I finally get to speak."

The wife of former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser teared up several times Monday morning as she described what happened on the night she struck and killed Anousone Phanthavong.

Senser said as she exited Interstate 94 at Riverside Avenue, she was looking to her left to see if the Riverside Avenue bridge would take her back across the freeway so she could get back on the interstate in the opposite direction. She said she didn't recall seeing the flashing hazard lights of Phanthavong's Honda Accord stalled just a few hundred feet up the ramp.

The collision with Phathanvong occurred just after 11 p.m.

Senser described 'being jolted' by the impact and assumed she'd hit a pothole or piece of construction equipment. The crash was not enough to activate the airbags in the 2009 Mercedes Benz ML350 SUV she was driving. Senser said she didn't have the windows down, but the sunroof was open.

According to cell phone records, Senser called one of her daughters at 11:08 p.m. But Senser said she was not on her cellphone at the time she struck Phanthavong.

Senser said she drank part of a glass of wine at a restaurant next to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul at about 8:30 p.m. -- about two and a half hours before the collision. She testified that she didn't finish it, because she had been taking antibiotics for an ear and sinus infection and the alcohol only made her feel worse.

Senser said she then walked over to the Xcel to watch a concert there. Her two daughters and their friends were already there. Senser's plan was to watch the show and then drive the teenaged girls home.

But Senser testified that the loud music and sound of thousands of girls screaming started to trigger a bad headache. Senser said she'd been treated for severe headaches all her life, and she could sense one was coming on. Senser said a woman next to her told her the show would probably last until midnight.

"I knew I had to leave," said Senser.

Senser said she left the concert at about 10:45 p.m. and was driving west on I-94 to her Edina home. But she changed her mind and decided to turn around at the Riverside Avenue exit.

EXPERT: HARD FOR SENSER TO SEE VICTIM

A driver safety expert testified earlier Monday that it would have been hard for Senser to see the man she is accused of killing that night.

Paul Olson specializes in drivers' visual perceptions at night. He said that Senser may have seen the flashing lights on the stalled car of the victim, restaurant cook Anousone Phanthavong.

But Olson said it would have been difficult for her to react given the lack of street lighting and the clutter of construction signs and material around the accident site.

Olson's testimony followed a Friday court session in which prosecutors called an expert with the Minnesota State Patrol who detailed the size and estimated speed of Amy Senser's Mercedez SUV, and the height and weight Phanthavong, and said the impact would have felt more powerful than just striking a construction cone.

Senser's husband, former Vikings star Joe Senser, previously testified that she believed she struck a cone or barrel on the night of the crash.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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