Reporting Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Jury selection will start Monday in one of the most high profile criminal cases the state has seen in a while.
Joe Senser made his name as a Vikings star and as the owner of a popular sports bar. But this week, all eyes will be on his wife, Amy, as she goes on trial in the death of 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong.
Phanthavong was killed as he was filling his stalled car with gas on an Interstate 94 exit ramp. Amy Senser says she didn’t realize she hit anyone that night.
Her trial promises to be both lengthy and complex.
Many think this case will bring out strong emotion, but part of the due process of law is to make sure that that emotion does not get the best of either side. Keeping those feelings under control and finding jurors who have not made up their minds will be a difficult process.
Anna Fieser was Phanthavong’s friend. She worked with him at True Thai, the restaurant where Phanthavong worked for 10 years.
“I miss him every day, because he was definitely the soul of True Thai,” Feeser said.
Employees at the restaurant walk by a shrine for Phanthavong that sits in the middle of the restaurant, hoping for justice.
Joseph Daly, a lawyer who both practices law and teaches it at Hamline University, said the jury selection process is going to be tedious.
“There are going to be a lot of potential jurors that are going to get questioned and probably eliminated because they have already made up their mind,” Daly said.
Many people already have an opinion about the case, he says, and many have also formulated a negative opinion about Amy Senser. But jurors must be able to put aside what they’ve heard in order to be selected.
Daily says both sides are looking for people they hope will empathize with their position.
“The prosecutor is going to have to show that she knew she hit a human being and left,” Daly said.
What the jurors won’t hear are questions about Senser’s silence while being questioned by police and evidence that Phanthavong had cocaine in his system when he was killed.
Daly thinks one of the charges against Senser will be easy to prove: that she was driving in a grossly negligent manner. Investigators believe she was on the phone when she hit Phanthavong.
“Even if you don’t know you hit a human being, if you’re driving in a grossly negligent fashion that’s criminal vehicular homicide,” Daly said.
Daily thinks this case will be one that many will follow closely.
It is a case, he says, that will likely be studied in law schools for years to come.