Why is Senser case so fascinating?

8:24 PM, May 2, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - A deadly crash. A possible cover up. And a trial with tearful testimony. The Amy Senser case has captivated Minnesota since it began last summer.

"It's a really touching, tragic story that has all the earmarks of a good drama to boot," said Mary Vavrus, an associate professor of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota.
It's drama that's now playing out in a Minneapolis courtroom. But why is it so compelling?

"The interest in this trial is extremely high," said Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist John Rash, who cites several reasons.

First, he says, most of us are drivers, and many have been on or near the Riverside Avenue exit ramp of Interstate 94 where the August crash happened.

Rash also says the economic backgrounds of Amy Senser and Anousone Phanthavong are starkly different. And, he points to Joe Senser's pro football and namesake restaurant career, which he says give the case an element of local celebrity.

"This has not, thankfully, happened as much in the Twin Cities," Rash said. "And so when it does with someone who is relatively famous, it usually will draw some interest."

But rarely has there been this much. The Star Tribune says the Senser case is often the top story of the day on its website. At KARE11.com, Senser stories received nearly 380,000 page views since April 1 alone.

And beyond the general public, maybe even more intrigued are lawyers, fascinated by the story's legal side. Some, like Bloomington defense attorney Eric Olson, are watching the trial firsthand, and sharing updates with coworkers back at the office.

"My phone's been busy all day with textmessages saying, 'What's going on? What's the status?'" Olson said. "So I think everyone in the legal community is looking forward to seeing what happens here."

For many of reasons, but maybe none more than this: the idea it could happen to anyone.

"Probably a lot of us are thinking, 'Boy, that could have been me,'" Vavrus said.

Many of those attending the trial at the Hennepin County Courthouse say they've been most interested in the strategy of Amy Senser's defense team, and in the details of the Senser family's dynamics.

But they say the most fascinating part of the trial has been hearing Amy Senser's testimony.

Jurors will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Thursday.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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