Key question: Did Amy Senser know she hit someone?

MORNING EDITION

So now Amy Senser has been charged with felony vehicular operation. The Strib has decided to run the victim’s employer’s media indictment. What did we learn Thursday? If the Strib video is any indication, the defense depends on whether Senser (who has confessed to driving the car) “knew she hit a person,” her lawyer stated. In part of Anna Fieser’s op-ed the Strib edited out, she claims Anousone Phanthavong’s “shoes and pants had been ripped off by the pavement as he was dragged up the ramp, leaving him clad only in his white t-shirt and underwear on the pavement where he was left for dead, only three-quarters of a block from Riverside Hospital’s Emergency Room.” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says there was enough to charge Senser based on her confession and leaving the scene. She also left jail on $150,000 bail.

Boundary Waters Fire: Basically burning in place Thursday, the Duluth News Tribune’s John Myers reports, but 430 firefighters used the day to widen protective lines as warmer temps and 20 to 30 mph winds re-start.  MPR’s Dan Kraker says a special Rocky Mountain team is now managing what will be 500 people this weekend. KARE’s Boyd Huppert features a camper who had to beat a retreat when the winds shifted.  “It looked like ground zero at Mount St. Helens,” says one witness. Vaguely related: the Icebox of the Nation, International Falls, hit an all-time September low Thursday: 19 degrees.

GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean uses the Minnesota Data Practices Act to “inquire” about $270,000 in retroactive bonuses given Minneapolis school administrators. The Strib’s Corey Mitchell says after six weeks, Dean hasn’t received all the info. By the way, the Minneapolis school board is mad, too. (They didn’t sign off on Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s spending.) Also by the way, St. Cloud teachers are kinda mad the GOP is working to kill school referenda, many of which merely maintain spending, the St. Cloud Times’ Mark Sommerhauser reports.

In Washington, Democratic U.S. Sen Amy Klobuchar wants the so-called “Super Committee” to “go big” — $2.5 trillion beyond the minimum $1.5 trillion in savings, MPR’s Brett Nealy writes. The Dems actually have some leverage, because if Congress rejects what the Committee comes up with, then $1.2 trillion in cuts — half from the GOP’s beloved defense spending — ensue. The trick, many economists say, is not to cut spending massively in the current climate, but pay down the deficit when the recovery is firmer. Republicans say payback never happens (ignoring the Clinton ’90s). Al Franken wants the committee to spare Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, even though they are three of the biggest spending items.

Your Michele Bachmann minute: The mother of a gay Anoka High student who killed himself delivered a 130,000-signature petition asking the presidential candidate to condemn gay harassment, the Strib’s Maria Elena Baca writes. WCCO has video. Staff says the congresswoman will review the document and respond later. Meanwhile, MPR’s Poligrapher, Catharine Richert, discusses Bachmann’s science-hating belief system. Says one academic: “Many evangelicals, especially conservative evangelicals, often view the world as being against their religious views. Take evolution: Faith always trumps science.” Conveniently, the GOP’s business base also hates science-based regulations. “The Daily Show” ribaldly mocked Bachmann’s HPV fearmongering, with bonus Minnesota jokes. More seriously, the New York Times quotes a Republican operative calling it “the nail in the coffin in her campaign.”

Very cool: After 15 years, St. John’s handwritten Bible is finished, KARE’s Dave Berggren reports. The final few of 1,100 pages will be on display today through Nov. 13 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Meanwhile, the MIA returned a 5th-century B.C. vase to Italy. The museum bought it 28 years ago but determined it had been stolen, MPR’s Marianne Combs reports.

Nort spews: Good news! Jerry Kill is back with the Gophers! Good news! The Lynx are back in the WNBA playoffs, which open tonight at Target Center. Good news! Jim Thome is back (with Cleveland, which plays the Twins at Target Field tonight). Good news! The Twins didn’t play yesterday!

Glean creator David Brauer returns to fill in for vacationing Brian Lambert.

Comments (16)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/16/2011 - 07:45 am.

    I don’t think the existence of one blog post from Esme Murphy definitively proves the existence media bias. But it does go to a basic question we ask ourselves all sorts of different contexts. The GOP guy asked it the other about President Obama. “Is he (or she) one of us, or one of them?”

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/16/2011 - 09:16 am.

    OK, I’m not a lawyer, but this Amy Sensor thing has me confused. Maybe I’ve got the timeline wrong, but didn’t the Sensor’s call a lawyer that evening? Why would they do that if Amy didn’t suspect she’d had an accident of some kind? And if she thought she’d had an accident of some kind, why didn’t she stop? Her defense raises more questions than it answers doesn’t it? I don’t think the prosecution has to “prove” she knew she hit someone, they just have to convince a jury or judge that facts are inconsistent with a theory that she didn’t know. I am I right?

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/16/2011 - 09:22 am.

    Hiram, it’s not just one blog post, it’s two blog posts and newspaper article, as well as a week long delay printing a letter from a friend of the victim. Does all this prove bias? No. But it looks hinky. I think to whatever extent the “media” are concerned about the perception of favoritism, they should stop creating that impression.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/16/2011 - 09:46 am.

    I heard some Prof. assure an NPR audience on Wednesday that the boundry waters fire was caused by GLOBAL WARMING (harumph..as if most of us hadn’t already assigned it the blame!), but I’m torn about the record cold.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m *sure* that AGW is to blame, but I confess I need some help from a veteran warmer to put the proper words to my conviction.

    Dave?

  5. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/16/2011 - 09:55 am.

    Presumably, the Senser prosecution will have to prove that she knew before she left the scene that she had hit a person. That could be a tough one, depending upon exactly what the physical evidence is.

    On the civil front, the Phanthavong family’s attorney speaks publicly about a “search for truth” about what Senser was doing before the impact, focusing on the possibility that she was drinking. Those with some knowledge of personal injury law will recognize this as an attempt to build a claim against Senser for punitive damages. Proving she was intoxicated, however, will be a hard sell without a blood alcohol level to work with.

    I’m certain that the pubic will not care for Senser’s defense given her admission that she was driving. In both the criminal and civil cases, it’s not her burden to prove she was innocent or not negligent.

    On the civil side, her insurer is no doubt busy assessing the wisdom of paying now or paying to defend and then paying. But if her insurance limits (and Mr. Phanthavong’s underinsurance limits) aren’t enough to satisfy the family and its attorneys, then we can expect a hard push to collect from the Sensers personally, using the threat of punitive damages as leverage.

  6. Submitted by Marc Allen on 09/16/2011 - 11:55 am.

    Thomas,

    Pointing to one cold day as anti-global warming proof demonstrates you don’t know the difference between weather and climate.

    Also, the biggest mistake climatologists ever made was allowing their research to be branded as “global warming” when it’s really more about climate change and how it makes extreme weather more extreme (Think back to the crazy amount of snow we got last winter and the record number of tornadoes this spring).

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/16/2011 - 12:10 pm.

    //Presumably, the Senser prosecution will have to prove that she knew before she left the scene that she had hit a person.

    Again, I’m not a lawyer, so correct me if I’m wrong, but we send people to death row on circumstantial evidence don’t we? If I were the Sensor’s I would be real leery of hanging my freedom on the possibility that twelve fine citizens will refuse to connect the dots.

    The question isn’t really weather or not it can be proven, the question is whether or not a judge or jury will believe Ms. Sensor when she sits on the stand (as she would have to do since no one else could offer this testimony)and says she didn’t know she’d had an accident. Juries hear conflicting testimony all the time, and they decide who to believe. All the prosecution has to do here is line up the ducks. My guess is this thing will never to trial.

  8. Submitted by scott gibson on 09/16/2011 - 12:23 pm.

    I didn’t hear the report about global warming causing the BWCAW fire. I doubt it was mentioned in that way, though climate change may have come up in a nuanced background way, somehow. Everything I’ve heard was that lightning was the cause.

  9. Submitted by tom moore on 09/16/2011 - 01:15 pm.

    the complaint/charges mention that Ped was found forty feet from the car, and his shoes were forty feet behind him – seems obvious that the prosecution is saying – or going to say – that the evidence shows it was a big collision (they also mentioned the front lamp being out/broken – basically, more than just a scratch and a blood stain). so, to argue she didn’t “know” she hit someone, the alternative is what? drunk? asleep? distracted?

    and the media has been biased. find the evening newscast from wcco the first night it was being reported. the anchors and then rosen were talking about what a “stand-up” man joe senser seems to be, how rosen knows him personally, and how “tragic” it all is. funny that the coverage talks about how “sad” or “tragic” this case is, and it (the sypmathy) extends to mrs senser, not just the guy who was killed by whoever was driving her s.u.v.

    other questions (that i don’t see/hear asked in our local press)….. could he have surived if treated immediately? is this possible? close to an emergency room, was he dead upon impact? any way of knowing? could someone (driving in a legal manner: sober, not distracted, not asleep)hit a person of his size, causing as much damage as the police say was caused, and not notice it?

    are there more charges that can be and/or will be added concerning leaving the scene of a crime and/or leaving someone to die who maybe wasn’t dead at the time?

    seriously, if this guy, Ped, had run over Amy Senser, does anyone think the media wouldn’t be covering more of the emotional-reaction part of it? that they wouldn’t cover more of the victim’s family’s side of things? that they wouldn’t dismiss the background of the driver (from a recent-immigrant family and poor) compared to the victim? what if the driver was still, after admitting to being the driver, allowed to drive his car, allowed to live at home? this whole case just stinks, especially the way it’s being handled by the local media.

  10. Submitted by tom moore on 09/16/2011 - 01:17 pm.

    put it this way: if a member of a rich, (locally)famous Edina family had been killed by a poor, recent-immigrant cook from the city, do you think the tone and coverage would be about how “sad” it is for the cook and his family? any of it?

  11. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 09/16/2011 - 02:25 pm.

    I don’t think the key question is whether or not Amy Senser knew she hit someone; the facts prove she did.

    1. She hit something with enough force to cause damage to her car, and that definitely not something you normally enounter, or expect, on an exit ramp.

    2. The person she hit was thrown at least 40 feet, so it can also be convincingly argued (and perhaps proven) that he was on the hood of the SUV at some point, blocking her view for a brief time, before being thrown from the vehicle onto the side of the ramp. Unless you’re severely intoxicated and unable to operate your vehicle, there’s no way she could not have known she hit someone.

    3. The fact that she fled the scene instead of stopping, calling 911, and notifying the authorities indicates consciousness of guilt.

    4. She and her husband hid the SUV in their garage, even though they must have seen the blood on the hood of the vehicle. They called an attorney, who advised them not to cooperate in the investigation, and he waited ten days before telling police that Amy Senser was the driver.

    5. The fact that a bottle cap from Mike’s Hard Lemonade was found in the vehicle, but no bottle, would seem to indicate an attempt to remove evidence that would aid in the investigation to determine the chain of events.

    I’m not rushing to judgement, but from what we already know, Amy Senser and her husband have done everything they can to make themselves look guilty.

    As for the Strib, the fact that they would edit an Op-Ed piece from the victim’s family, but not subject Op-Ed pieces from political candidates, “think tanks”, and elected officials to the same type of editing (as well as fact checking) does indicate a media bias. The Strib editors would never admit to this, because they see only what they want to see, regardless of the evidence.

  12. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/16/2011 - 04:03 pm.

    TPT ran a fascinating program on the production of the St. John’s Bible in the exact way monks in Dark Ages monasteries reproduced the scriptures by hand, “illuminating” some pages with brilliant shades of ink. I hope they will repeat it.

    Each page is a work of art, whether or not you are religious.

  13. Submitted by will lynott on 09/16/2011 - 06:53 pm.

    The Senser thing may indeed never get to trial, but if it does she may waive her right to a jury trial and take her chances with the judge. Defendants often do that when the facts are against them.

    But it does look like a prime case for an Alford plea, in which defendants don’t admit wrongdoing but acknowledge that the evidence could convict them. What the prosecutors would give her in exchange can’t be known at this time, of course. It will, of course, further erode my waning confidence in the judicial system if she doesn’t get prison time. If she was behind the wheel that night, as she has said, she hit a man with her car and left him for dead.

    Another thing–I really can’t picture a sober driver not picking up on the fact that she is bearing down on a vehicle that’s parked on the verge and a man is standing beside it, unless her headlights weren’t on. And, I was once in a car that hit a deer and there was a terrific whump! and clanging. That’s why I think she’ll waive–a jury simply wouldn’t believe her.

    Still another thing–whatever thick-necked creep it was who anonymously posted the dead man’s utterly irrelevant rapsheet on the Strib website, along with the Strib knuckledraggers who allowed it to be posted, are beneath contempt.

  14. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 09/17/2011 - 07:57 am.

    Will, it was WCCO that allowed the rap sheet comment. The Strib has yet to run a single story on this accident that allowed comments.

  15. Submitted by will lynott on 09/18/2011 - 08:46 pm.

    #14, I stand corrected. Should have known better.

  16. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 09/19/2011 - 09:54 am.

    There are really 2 “trials” here. The criminal one’s been summarize pretty well here.

    My issue is with the “court of public opinion”. Between the statements issued by the Senser family and the personal commentary from NUMEROUS local media personalities, I was bothered by (1) the emphasis on how tragic this was for the Sensers, with little mention of the real victim and (2) the personal testimonials about the “integrity” of the Sensers. Whether or not the SEnssers had integrity before the incident, it certainly wasn’t true after the accident. Look, their actions may have been smart from a legal standpoint or not much different than what most people would have done. But they definitely aren’t the actions of someone with “integrity”. Thus, in the “court of public opinion”, the Sensers lose big time.

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