Defense, prosecution rest in trial of alleged drunk driving crash that killed pedestrian

Wheeling (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)
Wheeling (Source: Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office)
Putnam (left) and her best friend (Photo from friend)
Putnam (left) and her best friend (Photo from friend)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Both the prosecution and defense have rested their cases in the trial of the man accused of driving drunk and hitting and killing a pedestrian.

Investigators say Kelli Putnam was walking on South Boulevard on January 17, 2016, when Gregory Wheeling Jr hit her.

Police say Wheeling was drunk, speeding and driving erratically. He's on trial for second-degree murder, aggravated felony death by vehicle, and DWI.

Wheeling's blood alcohol content was .13. Putnam's blood alcohol content was .20

Wheeling's defense attorney says Putnam darted out onto the road and his client didn't have enough time to react to avoid her.

Before the defense rested its case Friday morning, Judge Yvonne Mims Evans told Wheeling he has the right to testify and he has the right to not testify.

When Judge Mims Evans asked Wheeling if he wanted to testify, Wheeling responded: "no, your honor."

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning.

Judge Mims Evans sent jurors home for the day while she and attorneys decide what instructions to give jurors for deliberations, which will begin next week.

Both the defense and prosecution agreed that Judge Mims Evans could instruct jurors to consider a lesser included charge of involuntary manslaughter. The judge declined the defense's request for a lesser included charge of misdemeanor death by vehicle.

Attorney George Laughrun also wants the judge to instruct the jury on pedestrian responsibilities. He believes the victim's actions played a role.

"We're asking you to say that's an intervening or contributory factor in why the collision took place," Laughrun said. "She was in a place she wasn't supposed to be."

The prosecution says the crash was Wheeling's fault.

"The defendant was speeding," the prosecutor told the judge. "There's no evidence the defendant was following any traffic laws."


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