By Shereen Siewert
MERRILL – A Merrill woman convicted in the June 2012 alcohol-fueled crash that left two women dead and another woman critically wounded has been denied a new trial by a Wisconsin appeals court.
Ashley Baumann, now 30, is serving a seven-year prison term in connection with the June 7, 2012 crash that left 33-year-old Jessica Hartwig and 31-year-old Misty Glisch, both of Merrill, dead. Hartwig’s sister, Jerrica Woller, 30, of Merrill was seriously injured. Prosecutors said Baumann, who also was seriously injured in the crash, was driving when her car left the roadway and rolled over multiple times in the 700 block of South Alexander Street in Merrill.
Data from the vehicle’s air bag control module reported the vehicle’s top speed at the time of the crash to be 96 mph, according to court documents and testimony. The speed limit on that stretch of road is 25 mph.
Baumann did not take the stand during her seven-day trial but told police she could not remember who was driving when the car crashed, according to court testimony. Her trial attorney repeatedly suggested that Woller, not Baumann, was behind the wheel, but cell phone photos taken minutes before the crash show Baumann was the driver, according to court filings. A DNA analyst also provided evidence at trial, including blood and hair samples that showed the position of each occupant of the vehicle at the time of the crash.
A toxicology report from the state crime lab showed Baumann had a 0.157 percent blood alcohol content more than five hours after the crash, and a toxicologist testified at trial that Baumann’s BAC at the time of the crash would have been somewhere between 0.212 and 0.294.
In November 2016, Baumann appealed her conviction based on the theory that that Wright Laufenberg, Baumann’s trial attorney, should have objected to inadmissible statements that prejudiced the jury. Baumann has never admitted to being the driver, and Laufenberg repeatedly suggested she could have switched seats with Woller before the tragedy occurred.
Baumann’s lawyers also wrote that Laufenberg should have introduced evidence that showed Woller, who died in 2016 in an unrelated incident, received money from a civil lawsuit related to the crash.
But on July 17, the appeals court denied Baumann’s request for a new trial and rejected her attorneys’ arguments and did not find Laufenberg deficient in his representation. The court also rejected Baumann’s argument that she should be granted a new trial “in the interest of justice,” according to court documents.
Baumann’s quest for a new trial may not be over, however. Just this month, her appeals attorney, Ellen Krahn, filed a new petition for review. The court received that petition on Aug. 24.
Baumann will be 33 the day she is due to be released from prison and will spend the following five years on extended supervision. She will be eligible to reinstate her driving privileges at age 38.