Senser victim's boss speaks out after appeal filed - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Senser victim's boss speaks out after appeal filed

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  • Amy Sensor's attorney files appeal

    Amy Sensor's attorney files appeal

    Wednesday, December 26 2012 8:23 PM EST2012-12-27 01:23:06 GMT
    Amy Senser's attorney, Eric Nelson, today filed an appeal regarding her conviction in the August 2011 hit-and-run death of Anousone Phanthavong.Nelson cited a lack of evidence and an unfair jury pool as
    Amy Sensoer's attoney, Eric Nelson, today filed an appeal regarding her conviction in the August 2011 hit-and-run death of Anousone Phanthavong.

One day after attorneys filed an appeal in the Amy Senser hit-and-run case, the victim's long-time boss and friend spoke out to say he isn't surprised by the filing, but it's reviving bad memories.

In May, Senser was convicted of hitting and killing Anousone Phanthavong while he was putting gas in his car. Months later, the memorial to Phanthavong still remains inside True Thai, where he was head chef. Two days ago, flowers from the Senser family were added to the display.

Phanthavong helped the restaurant earn many awards, and his boss -- Chuck Whitney -- told FOX 9 News he still thinks about him often, like a family member.

"I think it's a nice gesture and it certainly makes me think they are thinking of him," Whitney said of the flowers. "I know it's something she will have to live with her whole life."

Yet, Whitney does question the timing, because the flowers arrived just one day before the formal appeal was filed by Senser's attorney.

The appeal claims there is insufficient evidence to support a conviction and also alleges errors were made by the trial court.

"There's a lot of aspects to this appeal, and they have given the court of appeals a lot of reasons to send it back -- but they got to acknowledge it's an uphill battle," said attorney Erik Hanson.

Hansen is an appellate attorney with Patrick Burns & Associates who has followed the case. After reading through the 45-page appeal, he told FOX 9 News he believes Senser could have a shot.

"The argument they are making is, 'Look, Miss Senser did not know what she hit was a person or a car; therefore, she wasn't required to stop," Hansen said.

The note found after the trial which stated jurors believed Senser thought she hit a car and not a person could be used to support that position, Hansen added.

"Frankly, that note from the jurors cuts both ways," he explained. "They say, 'We don't think she knew she hit somebody,' but does suggest she hit a car and -- if so -- did have a duty to stop."

The appeal also claims the trial court committed abuses of discretion that influenced the verdict, including denying a change of venue.

Senser's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, had the following to say about the refusal to change the venue, "The general atmosphere of the Twin Cities community -- and specifically Hennepin County, as indicated in the online activity surrounding the Twin Cities media publications -- was extremely hostile, prejudicial, inflammatory and even threateningly violent."

Hansen said he thinks it's possible to win on the change of venue challenge; however, he added that persuading the court to see it as a mistake is "going to be a hard thing to do."

"It's definitely a stretch," he said.

In the end, Senser's attorney are asking for the conviction to be overturned or a new trial be granted, but Whitney said he is confident the appeal will fail.

"It's our system. Let them do it. I don't think the people who are actually going to make a decision on this will actually see it any other way," he said.

Prosecutors have 45 days to respond to the appeal. Afterward, a hearing with oral arguments before the court will be scheduled.

Both Senser's attorney and the Hennepin County Attorney declined to comment for this story.

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