Friday, May 25, 2012

Amy Senser Trial Update: Appeals Process Gets Interesting

The saga that is the Amy Senser vehicular homicide case seems as though it may have no end.  Last week, in an unsurprising move, Senser's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, filed a motion to have the jury verdict in Senser's case either overturn the verdict entirely or to issue a new trial.

The issue at the crux of this motion was a not found written by the jury that they wished to have read out loud before their final verdict was read in court.  The judge decided not to read the note, instead passing it off to the prosecutors and giving it no weight.  So, just what did this magic note say that's got everybody so riled up?

"We believe that Mrs. Senser thought she hit a vehicle, not a person."

Oh, boy.

This note brings up a number of different questions, most of which can be answered by examining the jury instructions given to the 12 members before being sequestered.  The instructions gave the jurors the duty to convict Mrs. Senser if knew she caused injury, death, or damage to another vehicle.  Inexplicably, Nelson did not object to the inclusion of the "damage to another vehicle" section of the instructions.  What this means, ultimately, is that the jurors' note doesn't change what their verdict would have been had they believed Senser hit a person.

Nelson really has no one here to blame but himself for this problem.  His whole defense strategy revolved around creating the idea that Mrs. Senser thought she hit something other than a person.  Ultimately, it worked, but the jury instructions allowed them to convict Senser, anyway.

I think the lack of an on-record objection from Nelson will likely be the downfall of this appeal, but what is clear is that there was confusion among the jurors.  If this appeal continues down the line to higher courts, I could see a scenario where it is remanded for a retrial due to this apparent confusion.  It's important for jurors to know exactly what they're convicting someone of as opposed to guessing at a moving target.

I doubt this appeals process will end anytime soon.  In the meantime, sentencing of Senser can proceed as scheduled.  If, by chance, the verdict is overturned, Senser would be released from jail and the prosecution would have to set up an entirely new trial.  That would be a HUGE victory for the defense, but such an outcome is still a long ways off (and unlikely to occur).

This case is a great example of why it's important to have a qualified Minnesota criminal defense attorney that you can trust.  If you have been recently charged with a crime, or if you are the subject of a criminal investigation, call or email a Minnesota criminal defense attorney as soon as possible in order to get someone working hard to protect your rights.

As always, no information on the Minnesota Criminal Defense Blog is intended to be construed as legal advice or legal advertising, nor does viewing this website create an attorney/client relationship between the content's author and the reader.  If you are in need of legal advice, stop surfing the internet for answers and speak with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction as soon as possible.

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