Oneida County jury selected in Ellen Tran homicide case
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
A Oneida County jury of seven women and eight men will begin hearing testimony Monday in the case of the state of Wisconsin versus Ellen L. Tran. Tran, 30, is charged with first degree reckless homicide in the April 2017 death of her 20-month-old stepson, Avery Edwards.
An initial panel of 25 potential jurors was called to the front of the courtroom where attorneys for the prosecution and defense introduced themselves and listed the witnesses they expected to call in the five day trial. Oneida County Circuit Court Judge Patrick O’Melia asked several questions of the group, including whether they followed the case in the media, emphasizing that news coverage is not evidence.
Oneida County District Attorney Michael Schiek told the potential jurors he would be trying this case with circumstantial evidence.
“Not all cases are ‘CSI’,” Schiek said. “[Those are] dramas. We’re going to be presenting evidence in the form of witness testimony and expert testimony, but there isn’t anything like a surveillance tape of the actual (alleged) crime being committed,” adding that he wants to make sure everyone understands that a “circumstantial case can be just as strong as a direct evidence case.”
Schiek also told them some of the evidence will include photographs of the deceased, and asked whether that would prejudice their decision. One potential juror said she felt that “would impact anyone who is human,” but that she would be able to set that aside and listen to the evidence.
The defense, led by attorney Jonas Bednarek, along with attorney Sarah Schuchardt asked the jurors questions such as whether they have ever been “frustrated and angry” and said something they later regretted, whether they had ever been blamed for something they didn’t do, had any of them had a traumatic experience, or whether they had ever had a sick child. Any of the jurors who raised their hands where questioned further and asked whether those experiences would make it impossible for them to complete their duties as a juror.
In April 2017, a 911 call to the Oneida County dispatch center reported that a child (Edwards) had trouble breathing at a residence in the town of Newbold after he had fallen in the shower. The child was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander where he was then flown to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield and passed away a short time later. According to a sheriff’s department report, an autopsy findings were that Edwards died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head. The report further stated that Tran was the only adult present when the alleged incident happened and she had been caring for Edwards as well as a nine-year-old son and a 15-month-old daughter.
Four jurors were excused through this process. In the end, Schiek and Bednarek each could strike five panelists, leaving a 12-person jury and three alternates.
The trial begins Monday Oct. 22 at 8:30 a.m. with opening statements by prosecution and defense. Ellen Tran remains free on a $50,000 cash bond.
Avery Edwards’ father Trung Tran is charged with felony child abuse-failure to prevent bodily harm and neglecting a child/consequence is death. Trung Tran has entered not guilty pleas to both.