DUI death trial to stay in Lee County, judge rules

I'm a journalist focused on government, policy, politics and people.
I find what matters and bird dog it like nobody's business.

GILLENTINE

GILLENTINE

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – The October trial of a man accused of drunken driving resulting in the death of a Tupelo woman on her morning walk will remain in Lee County.

Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jim Pounds rejected the request of John Gillentine, 28, of Tupelo, to receive a trial outside Lee County, where authorities charged him of driving a pickup on Allyson Drive on Aug. 1, 2013, and hitting Elizabeth “Betty” Montgomery.

Gillentine pleaded not guilty to a DUI death charge in March. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

Gillentine’s change of venue request was made at a Aug. 18-19 hearing, along with a number of other requests associated with the Oct. 27 trial. Decisions aren’t known on other requests, including excluding videos showing him intoxicated, expert witnesses and others who may testify about Gillentine’s reputation, his arrest record and medical reports showing use of cocaine and other drugs.

Rulings on each request by attorney Josh Bogen, who represents Gillentine, haven’t been filed in Lee County Circuit Court.

Montgomery, 64, was hit by a vehicle around 5:40 a.m. while walking with a friend near Lakeshire Drive. She died the same day at North Mississippi Medical Center. The other person wasn’t injured.

Gillentine’s driving record shows guilty charges of DUI, speeding, disorderly conduct and other crimes prior to Montgomery’s death.

After receiving a reduced bond of $50,000 from $300,000, the Tupelo man spent 60 days in a drug and alcohol inpatient program. Conditions of his release until trial include no driving, riding near Montgomery’s home and drug-testing twice a week.

Pounds’ order setting the trial date at the Lee County Justice Center identified the case as a “high priority” and stated an additional 100 potential jurors will be needed for the trial.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com