Fields Trial Day 2: Court Continues to Question Potential Jurors
Jury selection has taken up the whole second day of trial for the man charged with the murder of Heather Heyer.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Jury selection has taken up the whole second day of trial for the man charged with the murder of Heather Heyer.
The weeks-long trial for 21-year-old James Alex Fields, Junior got underway in Charlottesville Circuit Court Monday, November 26 [Click here for coverage of Day 1]. The Ohio man is facing charges of first-degree murder, five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding, and failing to stop at an accident involving a death.
Attorneys on both sides and Judge Richard Moore continued the process of questioning hundreds of potential jurors all day Tuesday, November 27. After a round of questioning in open court about opinions and/or possible bias they may have, individuals go behind closed doors with the judge and lawyers for additional questioning.
“This case is taking a long time in jury selection because the judge is trying very hard to make sure they get 28 jurors who are truly fair. ‘Truly indifferent in the cause,’ is the phrase used, and it's hard with all the publicity, all of the opinions, there are a lot of choices that have to be made, a lot of people are going to get excused," legal analyst Lloyd Snook said.
Eighteen people out of roughly 360 have been deemed qualified to serve as jurors. Attorneys on both sides will eventually use a series of strikes once that pool of qualified, potential jurors reaches 28. From that, the court will seat a jury of 12 plus four alternates.
"There are two kinds of strikes: The first kind of strike is for cause, which is what's happening right now is where people are being found to have an opinion they can't give up. They are struck for cause. Once they get 28 selected then each side will have the right to strike six," Snook explained.
Defense attorney John Hill continued to hammer home two points while questioning potential jurors: he and Denise Lunsford may use a self-defense claim for their client, and there may be testimony about mental health issues.
Court records show a total of 18 days scheduled for the Fields trial. His charges stem from a car attack against a group of counter demonstrators marching in the area of Fourth Street against the Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017. A medical examiner ruled Heyer died due to blunt-force injury from the car attack, while dozens suffered various injuries.
Fields appears to have participated in the rally with Vanguard America, a white supremacist group, according to the Ant-Defamation League. Federal authorities have brought dozens of charges against Fields, which includes one count of a hate crime act resulting in the death of Heyer, and 28 counts of hate crime acts causing bodily injury and involving an attempt to kill.
Judge Moore told the courtroom earlier in the day that he expects a jury to be seated sometime Wednesday, November 28.
The day wrapped up a little after 7 p.m. Tuesday, with Judge Moore saying 10 more jurors are still needed before moving forward and narrowing it down to a final 16.