Oaks seeks new trial in vehicular homicide case

Published 5:54 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Butler man convicted of vehicular homicide earlier this year has filed a motion with the court seeking a new trial.

Jerry Ray Oaks, 35, of Piercetown Road, Butler, was found guilty by a jury in August of vehicular homicide by intoxication. The charge against Oaks stems from a motor vehicle accident on February 13, 2016, which claimed the life of 47-year-old Viencen Hitechew, of Roan Mountain.

In September, Judge Lisa Nidiffer Rice sentenced Oaks to 16 years in prison. Due to his prior record, Oaks was classified by the court as a “Multiple” offender, which means he will have to serve a minimum of 35 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

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Oaks attorney, Assistant Public Defender Wesley K. Taylor, has filed a motion seeking a new trial for his client claiming the trial court made errors regarding the admission and suppression of evidence.

Prior to the trial, Taylor had sought to suppress the results of a blood alcohol test performed on Oaks following the fatal crash. The blood sample was taken from Oaks without a search warrant. While the state argued that exigent circumstances justified the warrantless blood draw, Taylor argued that taking the sample without a warrant violated his client’s rights.

Rice denied Taylor’s request to suppress the results of the blood test at trial. In the motion seeking a new trial, Taylor said in allowing the results to be entered as evidence the court “committed a reversible error.”

In the motion, Taylor also states the court erred in sustaining an objection by the State to the Defense’s attempt to refer to a portion of a report by Tennessee Highway Patrol crash reconstruction expert Trooper Michael Heatherly during closing arguments. The state’s objection was based on the fact no testimony had been heard regarding the portion of the report which Taylor attempted to use during closing arguments.

Taylor also argues in the motion that the evidence presented at trial was “insufficient to support a finding of guilt in the case” and the court erred in approving the verdict.

Oaks is scheduled to appear in Carter County Criminal Court on Monday, Nov. 13, for a hearing on the motion for a new trial.