Men­tal eval­u­a­tion post­pones man’s trial

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - STEVEN MROSS

The trial of a local man charged with neg­li­gent homi­cide in con­nec­tion with a fa­tal wreck last year that was set to be­gin Thurs­day was post­poned af­ter a men­tal eval­u­a­tion was re­quested Mon­day to de­ter­mine his fit­ness to pro­ceed.

Austin Til­mon Meeks, 22, who could face up to 20 years in prison if con­victed on the felony charge, made the re­quest dur­ing a pre­trial hear­ing be­fore Gar­land County Cir­cuit Court John Homer Wright, who granted the re­quest and stayed any fur­ther court pro­ceed­ings un­til the men­tal eval­u­a­tion can be com­pleted.

Meeks was ar­rested Sept. 20,

2016, af­ter an Arkansas State Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the April

10, 2016, one-ve­hi­cle wreck on High­way 192 north of Moun­tain Pine in which a pas­sen­ger in Meeks’ ve­hi­cle, Day­ton K. Gar­ner, 22, was killed.

Meeks’ at­tor­ney, Shane Ethridge, had filed a mo­tion on Feb. 3, 2017, to sup­press the re­sults of a blood test that al­legedly showed Meeks was legally in­tox­i­cated at the time of the wreck, but Wright de­nied the mo­tion on Aug. 2 af­ter a re­view.

Ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit, shortly af­ter 12:15 a.m. on April

10, Trooper Bran­don Mar­gis

re­sponded to the wreck, which in­volved a 2008 Chevro­let pickup re­port­edly west­bound on High­way 192 when the driver, iden­ti­fied as Meeks, failed to ne­go­ti­ate a curve and left the road­way.

He lost con­trol af­ter over­cor­rect­ing, send­ing his ve­hi­cle across both lanes of traf­fic to the south side of the road­way. The ve­hi­cle col­lided into trees, eject­ing both Meeks and his pas­sen­ger, iden­ti­fied as Gar­ner.

Gar­ner was pro­nounced dead at the scene by Gar­land County Coro­ner Stu­art Smed­ley. A fa­tal­ity re­port noted there was light rain fall­ing, and the road­way was wet.

Meeks was trans­ported to CHI St. Vin­cent Hot Springs where Mar­gis made con­tact with him, read him his rights and re­quested a blood sam­ple. Meeks con­sented and a sam­ple was taken at 3:10 a.m. and sent to the state crime lab in Little Rock for test­ing.

Mar­gis later re­ceived the crime lab tox­i­col­ogy re­port, which re­port­edly showed Meeks’ blood al­co­hol content to be 0.11 per­cent, over the le­gal limit of 0.08 per­cent.

On July 18, 2016, pros­e­cu­tors filed a mo­tion to ob­tain Meeks’ med­i­cal records from St. Vin­cent. On July 29, ASP Spe­cial Agent Russ Rhodes re­ceived the med­i­cal records which showed Meeks’ ethanol level was 0.017 per­cent, more than twice the le­gal limit. The med­i­cal records did not in­di­cate what time his blood was col­lected for ethanol test­ing.

A war­rant was is­sued for Meeks’ ar­rest and he was taken into cus­tody on Sept. 20 and later re­leased on $2,500 bond.

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