Baumann jury in deliberation
After five days of testimony from witnesses, both the prosecution and defense made their final pleas to the jury Monday in the trial of Ashley Baumann. A 12-member jury went into deliberation just after 2:30 p.m. Baumann, 26, of Merrill, is charged with seven felony counts related to a June 2012 car crash that killed two people.
Special prosecutor Tara Jenswold said the state has proven that Baumann was behind the wheel when the car went out of control and rolled into a field off Alexander Street. Defense attorney Wright Laufenberg, however, said there is a possibility that someone else was driving in the last few minutes before the fatal crash.
Baumann, Jerrica Woller, Misty Glisch and Jessica Hartwig left a Merrill tavern around 2 a.m. on June 7, 2012, in Baumann’s 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix. At approximately 3:30 p.m., the crash was reported. Glisch and Hartwig were found dead at the scene, while Baumann and Woller were found seriously injured. Glisch, Hartwig and Baumann had been ejected from the vehicle, while Woller, who was wearing a seatbelt, stayed in the vehicle.
In her opening statements a week ago, Jenswold said the case would be like a puzzle and the state had shown where all the pieces go.
“Like any puzzle, it can only go together one way,” she said.
She said it was Baumann who was behind the wheel with a BAC at least twice the legal limit, driving at least 90 mph.
“It only gets complicated when you start looking too close, zooming in and looking for things that aren’t there,” Jenswold said.
A crime lab toxicologist testified that Baumann’s BAC was likely around .24 percent at the time of the crash. Crash reconstruction specialists from the Wisconsin State Patrol put the vehicle’s speed at approximately 96 mph just before it started to skid on the roadway. Based on where the occupants were found, the reconstruction was consistent with Woller’s statements that she was seated in the passenger side backseat, Glisch was in the driver side backseat, Hartwig was in the front passenger seat and Baumann was driving.
Jenswold reminded jurors of testimony that Woller’s DNA was found in blood samples from all over the car, including the passenger side rear seatbelt. A hair embedded in the driver’s door frame was found to belong to Ashley Baumann.
Photos taken in the vehicle on Glisch’s phone shortly before the crash show Woller in the back seat and Baumann in the driver’s seat.
In his closing arguments, defense attorney Wright Laufenberg asked the jury to find reasonable doubt with the state’s evidence. He showed a report from 6:18 a.m. on the day of the crash that listed Baumann as the driver. Investigators missed other potential evidence because they were only looking at Baumann, Laufenberg said.
“They’ve made up their mind at 6:18 a.m.,” he said.
Laufenberg said there was a “lack of thoroughness” in the collection of evidence.
“There are way too many things unexplained in this case,” he said.
In her rebuttal, Jenswold called Laufenberg’s arguments “red herrings” intended to distract the jurors from the evidence.
Jenswold said it was offensive the way the defense has attempted to portray Woller as the driver at the time of the crash.
“He’s essentially accusing her of causing her sister’s death,” Jenswold said.
Twelve members of the jury are in deliberation at the courthouse. Two others who heard the case were selected randomly as alternates after closing arguments. Those two were taken to a Merrill hotel and would be called upon if anything happened to one of the other jurors. The jury will be allowed to remain in deliberations for as long as they want to this evening. If they decide to rest before verdicts are reached in each of the seven counts, they would stay overnight in a hotel before returning to the jury room tomorrow.