Judge Roy Morgan, Jr. denied a motion requesting that Charles Pittman’s trial be moved to a different county.
Pittman appeared in Madison County Circuit Court Division I today, Feb. 9, where Morgan ruled on the change-of-venue request as well as other motions.
Pittman has entered a not-guilty plea to the charges of first degree murder and tampering with evidence in connection with the February 2014 death of his fiancée, Olivia Greenlee. Both Pittman and Greenlee were Union students scheduled to graduate May 2014. Pittman was a Christian ministries major and Greenlee was a music education major.
Morgan also set Pittman’s bond at $1 million.
George Googe, district public defender, questioned whether a fair and impartial jury could be found due to the amount of publicity the case has generated.
“This is a case that has had more publicity and more local and regional interest than most cases in recent history,” Googe said. “It’s an unusual case involving the community here in Jackson and also the Union University community, which extends into the region.”
Jody Pickens, assistant district attorney, said the fact that potential jurors may have been exposed to information does not require a change of location. Pickens also pointed out that most stories which appeared in the Jackson Sun, WBBJ and Cardinal & Cream were published last spring, and that the stories were meant to inform rather than inflame anger against Pittman.
Morgan said a jury will be fully vetted, with individual interviews to see that potential jurors do not influence each other before the trial. He also stated that previous high profile cases have proceeded with fair juries in the county.
“Our common goal is a fair and impartial jury,” Morgan said. “I emphasize the word common, because that’s the goal of the state as well as the defendant.”
Another motion requested the testimony Ron Pugh, Jackson police investigator, gave during Pittman’s preliminary hearing be excluded from the trial.
The state and the defense agreed today that Pugh will be able to testify, but the state will not ask questions relating to the credibility of the defendant.
If Pittman is able to make bond, conditions are that he must not contact Greenlee’s family, must have a 7 p.m. curfew and must not leave the court jurisdiction.
Googe said he does not believe Pittman will be able to make the $1 million amount.
He also said if the venue had to be changed, a place like Memphis or Nashville would be more appropriate than rural West Tennessee, an area with many ties to Union.
“We’re just trying to make sure that Mr. Pittman gets the fair trial that he’s entitled to under the law,” Googe said.
Pittman’s next scheduled appearance is March 16, with his trial set for May 12-14. He has until March 16 to negotiate a plea agreement.
Greenlee was found dead Feb. 12, 2014 in her 2001 Toyota Corolla in the parking lot behind Luther Hall, an auxiliary building on Union’s campus. A 9mm handgun was found inside the locked car, and the preliminary cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head, according to the affidavit of complaint.