Day two: Stepdaughter testifies she told Amy Senser to admit to driving SUVby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS — Relatives of the victim and the accused testified Tuesday on the second day of the hit-and-run trial of Amy Senser. Jurors also got a detailed look at the scene of the crash and learned more about how Anousone Phanthavong lived and died.
Senser's 28-year-old stepdaughter Brittani Senser testified her dad, former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser told her about the crash two days after it happened.
However, she found out in a somewhat-cryptic manner. She says her dad sent her a text telling her, "Britts remember things aren't always as they seem."
Brittani Senser told the court she called Amy Senser and offered her support. But Britani testified she became furious as her dad and stepmom waited to tell authorities the identity of the driver of the Mercedes Benz SUV on the night of the crash, Aug. 23, 2011.
When Brittani started to hear speculation in the media that she may have been the driver she called the family attorney, Eric Nelson, and told him, "If you and Amy and my father don't say who was the driver, I will."
The next day, the family released the statement naming Amy Senser as the driver.
Senser is facing three counts of criminal vehicular homicide: for leaving the scene of a crash, for failing to notify authorities in a timely manner and for gross negligence.
Phanthavong's niece, Souksavahn Phanthavong, took the stand to talk about her uncle. She says he was known by the nickname, Ped. On the day that he died, her uncle was on his way to the True Thai restaurant where he worked, even though it was his day off.
Phanthavong said that at one time she worked alongside her uncle at the restaurant answering the phones and taking down take-out orders. She said her uncle often stopped at the restaurant at closing time to make sure the manager got everything done properly. She said Anousone Phanthavong was not only a hard worker, but he was generous. Her uncle often gave coworkers rides to and from the restaurant, Phanthavong said.
The most emotional moments in the courtroom came during the testimony of forensic pathologist Sarah Meyers, who performed the autopsy. She said Phanthavong suffered between 25 to 30 major, blunt-force injuries. The most lethal were lacerations to some internal organs and damage to his brain. Meyers said Phanthavong probably lived for a few seconds to possibly a minute after he was struck. Phanthavong was 38.
During the testimony, members of Phanthavong's family broke down in tears. A couple left the courtroom. Amy Senser also wiped away tears as autopsy photos revealed the damage done to the five-foot, three-inch, 135-pound man, she struck with her SUV.
The jury also heard recorded 911 phone calls from witness who discovered Phanthavong's body. The first on the scene was a registered nurse on his way to work at a nearby hospital. On the tape, Brian Gutterman is heard calling out to Phanthavong, Gutterman testified that he rubbed Phanthavong's back to see if he could rouse him. But he said the body was cool to the touch. Gutterman estimated Phanthavong had been dead for about two minutes.
Gutterman and other witnesses also said the crash scene was dark. But they said they had no trouble seeing the flashing hazard lights on Phanthavong's car. Defense attorney Eric Nelson said Senser didn't know she hit a person, and said she will testify later in the trial about what she saw and felt on that night.
Day three of the trial will be Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court.
- Morning Edition, 04/25/2012, 6:50 a.m.