Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Man Who Wouldn't Let Go

I spent most of last week monitoring the Loc Tran 1st Degree Murder case in Judge John Adams' courtroom. Prosecutor Robin Wilkinson methodically and thoroughly introduced evidence in the form of testimony from the victim's sister (who lived with her) and several coworkers, medical and law enforcement personnel, and crime lab analysts. Physical evidence consisted of photographs of the scene, ligatures that the defendant created from materials available at the home, and the murder weapon - a household knife.

All were artfully woven together to paint a picture of this man who wouldn't let go of his girlfriend, 20-yr old Anh Tran (no relation), when she decided the relationship was over in 2006.

Tran repeatedly harrassed Anh with phone calls, text messages and lengthy visits to the restaurant where she worked, sometimes staying there for her entire shift. He showed nude pictures of her to her coworkers in an effort to embarrass and further make her life miserable.

The victim's only, and tragically fatal, mistake was in trying to remain friends with the man she had once dated. She permitted him into her home and allowed him to use the sofa that fateful night because it was late and he had a long drive back to Clearwater. It was there that Tran fabricated the ligatures using a pair of kitchen scissors and some t-shirts. At some point he returned to her bedroom where he tied her to the bed, sexually assaulted her, and then stabbed her in the abdominal region at least 14 times. Eleven of the wounds were deep enough to penetrate major organs. Evidence also indicated her mouth and nose had been covered, temporarily cutting off her oxygen and restricting her ability to call for help from one of her three roommates (two of whom were sisters).

The defendant was found with superficial stab wounds to the abdomen and underwent surgery after he was discovered. The evidence showed that they were self inflicted and did no lasting damage.

The jury, thankfully, found Tran guilty of first degree murder and Judge Adams, even more thankfully, sentenced him to LIFE in prison. The jury never heard of his 1998 conviction where he raped a Clearwater woman who had rejected him (DOC's website shows he was incarcerated for 26 months on that offense - Defendant was also required to register as a sex offender). But the judge knew about it.

In Florida, a life sentence is a life sentence. Tran will die in jail, never having the opportunity to victimize another girlfriend again. Kudos to the prosecution and the judge.

One thing troubled me about this trial.

The defendant, who is Vietnamese, spoke and understood English without a problem. Yet his attorney, Wesley "Buck" Blankner, ordered interpreters for him. Typically two interpreters are needed during trial because fatigue sets in after simultaneously translating for an hour. I learned that the cost of these intepreters is $45 each, per hour. That's not what troubled me.

I, as a taxpayer, was bothered by the fact that Mr. Tran quit using them Tuesday morning. The case went to the jury at lunchtime Thursday. So we, the taxpayers, paid $90 an hour for two interpreters to watch the case for two full days.

I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Blankner why they were present when his client clearly understood English and was able to communicate with him. He verbally tap danced around my question, claimed they were there in case there was some legal terminology that Mr. Tran didn't understand, indicated they would be probably be used when jury instructions were done, and mentioned that Mr. Tran's parents (who were present for the entire case) might need some assistance understanding what was being said.

I, as a taxpayer, don't buy it. But I guess I had to buy it because they were there all week.

The court is not required to provide an interpreter for a defendant's parents. And I didn't remain in the courtroom once closing arguments had concluded (jury instructions are extremely tedious to watch - I have the utmost sympathy for judges having to read page after page of them) so I don't know if Mr. Tran used them.

The taxpayers of Orange County can thank Mr. Tran and his attorney for wasting their money on unnecessary interpreters. But since he's been living at taxpayer expense at the jail since October, 2006 and will be on the taxpayer's dime for years to come (he is currently 24 years old) I suppose a couple thousand more dollars is small change.


  1. And I am sure you questioned Mr. Tran about his legal knowledge, or knowledge to understand the medical examiners testimony.

  2. I did not speak to Mr. Tran. His attorney, however, admitted that he had never had any problems in communicating with his client.

    It was during the surgeon's testimony that Mr. Tran removed the headset and ceased listening to the interpreters. CourtWatch volunteers, who covered 90% of the the trial, did not see him use it after that.

  3. Thank you for a wonderful post, Laura. Mr. Tran was not 24 years old then, his birthday is 2/21/1976 according to this source:


    and they listed his race as "American Indian Or Alaskan Native"? His name is obviously Vietnamese but he does look mixed.

    I am wondering if he was born in the US? If he was not born here, how long has he lived in the US and why did he need a translator???