A man accused of hitting and killing a woman with his Chevy pickup while she was working in her yard had his jury trial delayed a second time.
A district attorney in Coffee County has been assigned to prosecute the case against Gary Driver, as District Attorney General Chris Stanford has recused himself.
“I have a conflict of interest in this case,” said Stanford. “I was a practicing attorney prior to being elected. I expect to have instances where there will be a conflict. When those arise, I’m ethically required to request a pro tempore to handle the prosecution.”
Assigned to the case is District Attorney General Craig Northcott of Tullahoma.
“I know there is some discord regarding Northcott being assigned to the case,” said Stanford.
Northcott was assigned to prosecute the case involving Christopher Hollis, when former district attorney Lisa Zavogiannis recused herself due to a conflict of interest. Hollis was shot and killed in a road rage incident on Sparta Highway in October 2021. After reviewing the facts of the case, Northcott determined that the shooter used deadly force in self-defense. He declined to bring charges.
Stanford continued, “I do not pick who is assigned. I request a pro tempore and the Tennessee District Attorney General’s Conference designates the prosecutor that substitutes on the case. Judge (Bart) Stanley must sign an order appointing the pro tempore prosecutor once that prosecutor has been designated by the conference.”
Driver was arrested in May 2020 and charged with criminal homicide and leaving the scene of an accident that took the life of Mildred Herrin. He was 49 years old at the time.
Criminal homicide is defined by Tennessee code as the unlawful killing of another person, which may be first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, or vehicular homicide.
Herrin, 71, was reportedly hit by Driver’s red Chevy pickup while weed-eating about 15 feet off the road in her front yard on Swan Mill Road in the Viola area. Law enforcement officials say Driver left the scene, hid the truck deep in a nursery field in Grundy County and was picked up not far from where the truck was found.
According to evidence at the scene, the vehicle which struck Herrin was traveling on Swan Mill Road toward Vervilla Road when it ran off the right side of the road. The driver overcorrected and, in doing so, went off the left side of the road and up the embankment. That’s where the truck struck Mrs. Herrin and also hit a tree.
Tips from an eyewitness, neighbors and surveillance footage from a nearby home all provided law enforcement with key information. Also crucial was a trail left by the vehicle itself.
“After the crash, he had a brake lock up or some kind of mechanical problem that left marks on the road and led to where the truck was abandoned,” said state trooper Rodney Whiles, who spearheaded the investigation. “We found it in Grundy County off Fred Lusk Road. It was at the back of a nursery abandoned in a wood line in a creek.”
Whiles said once the pickup with heavy front-end damage was found, Driver was determined to be the owner. “He was found in close proximity to where the vehicle was abandoned,” said Whiles.
This is the second delay for Driver. He had been scheduled to stand trial beginning April 4, 2022, once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. That date was pushed to September at the request of the defense. Requested was time to find an expert for some of the evidence the district attorney’s office had presented.