By Bob Allen
A judge in Jackson, Tenn., has turned down a request to move a former Union University student’s murder trial to another county claiming that pre-trial publicity would make it impossible to seat an impartial jury.
As a compromise, Madison County Circuit Court Judge Roy Morgan Jr. said attorneys for murder suspect Charlie Pittman could interview prospective jurors individually about their knowledge of the case scheduled for trial May 12-14.
At the same hearing Monday, Feb. 9, the court also set bond for Pittman at $1 million, an amount observers said he is unlikely to be able to raise. The judge did not rule on a motion to restrict testimony of an investigator who described blood spatters at the crime scene.
Pittman’s finance, 21-year-old Union University music major Olivia Greenlee, was found dead from a gunshot wound in a car parked on the edge of the campus at the Tennessee Baptist Convention-related school a year ago on Feb. 12.
Pittman originally reported Greenlee as missing, but during questioning changed his story to claim he was in the car when she committed suicide. Police said the story didn’t add up to physical evidence and charged Pittman with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence.
Before his arrest, Pittman was a Christian ministry major at Union and a former member of the golf team. According to media reports, both his and Greenlee’s parents were present for Monday’s hearing.
Recently the chairman of the Union University art department described plans for a sculpture to be built on campus honoring both Greenlee and Leighton Williams, a senior nursing major who died in a weather-related car crash in September 2013.