Note from jurors adds new twist to Senser trial, possible appeal - FOX 35 News Orlando

Note from jurors adds new twist to Senser trial, possible appeal

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

Just when it seemed like it was over and done, a new twist has emerged in the Amy Senser trial now that a note written by the jury surfaced -- and it may have handed the defense their best shot at an appeal.

Jurors had hoped to read the note with the verdict, but they did not get a chance. Now, a week after the decision was made public, FOX 9 News has learned the verdict wasn't delivered as the jury had wished. Instead, the note was tucked away in the evidence file that was handed to the judge's clerk immediately before the verdict was read.

The note asks a question first, and then expresses the opinion of the jury succinctly.

"Can this be read in the court room in front of Ms. Senser? We believe, she belived[sic] she hit a car or vehicle and not a person," it read.

The note was signed by the jury's foreperson.

A clerk for Judge Dan Mabley told FOX 9 News the note was considered an administrative request, not a jury question. That's why it was never read in court -- and why the defense and prosecution were never aware of it.

"The prosecution and defense were surprised to recently learn of the jury's communication to the court prior to the verdict," said Senser's defense attorney, Eric Nelson. "We are in the process of filing post-conviction motions to address the ramifications of this issue."

Nelson has already issued a subpoena for interviews jurors have given to local news media outlets, which is an indication that they may try to use jurors' statements in an appeal. It's a risky move, because it could anger the judge who will sentence Senser soon.

The note is important because it raises question of whether the jury reached a verdict that was backed by the evidence.

"It's puzzling on a couple of different levels," said Jeff Degree, a defense attorney not associated directly with the trial.

Though Degree said it is an odd development, he says it's unlikely to make a difference in terms of the convictions because the criminal vehicular homicide law also covers a person who hits a vehicle as well as a driver who hits a person.

"Really, the only issue for the judge: Was there evidence for the jury to reach the conclusion for that, and I think there's ample evidence for that," Degree said.

Yet, it is also possible that Senser's attorney could use the note during sentencing to argue that the judge should go easy on her because the jury thought she hit a car, not Anousone Phanthavong.

Senser faces up to four years in prison when she is sentenced on July 9.

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