Fields Trial Day 6: Jury Hears Details of Heather Heyer's Death
Heather Heyer had "almost zero chance" of surviving her injuries, according to testimony Monday from a fire captain who responded to the chaotic scene at Fourth Street on Aug. 12, 2017.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Experts and witnesses called to the stand by the commonwealth are taking jurors through the grim details in the James Alex Fields, Junior trial.
Heather Heyer had an "almost zero chance" of surviving her injuries, according to testimony Monday, December 3, from Charlottesville Fire Chief Captain Steward "Nick" Barrell. He told the court that CPR was attempted, but Barrell noted bruising across Heyer's chest that suggested she suffered a very serious injury. A Virginia State Police trooper had to also apply a tourniquet to a large laceration on Heyer's leg.
Testimony in the Fields trial has largely featured first-hand accounts from people who were injured by the car attack on Fourth Street, by the intersection with Water Street. The 21-year-old Ohio man is charged with first-degree murder, five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of failing to stop at an accident involving a death.
Fields drove his Dodge Challenger into a stopped car and counterprotesters marching against the Unite the Right rally August 12, 2017. Heyer was killed, and dozens were injured as a result.
Attorney John Hill has stated that Fields believed he was acting in self-defense.
Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennifer Bowers specified that Heyer’s autopsy report concluded her cause of death was blunt-force injury to the chest. That report also found that Heyer's aorta artery split into two parts, that she suffered a distal femur fracture, abrasions and contusions on her lower extremity, and a pulmonary (lung) contusion from rib fractures.
The commonwealth showed jurors the body-camera footage from University Police Officer Dean Dotts. The officer responded to the scene on Monticello Avenue, where Fields' Dodge Challenger was pulled over after the car attack. The footage depicted what was believed to be blood and flesh on Fields' car.
DNA analyst Kristin Van Itallie testified that a DNA sample found on the windshield of the Dodge Challenger likely belonged to Heyer: She specified that there is a 1-in-7.2 billion chance that the DNA profile is not Heyer’s.
Van Itallie added that Heyer cannot be eliminated as a contributor to DNA profiles developed from the passenger side-view mirror or front grill of the Dodge Challenger, or the roadway on Fourth Street.
"Modern jurors exhibit what we call the ‘CSI Effect’: they want their TV scientific evidence behind everything. And when there isn't scientific evidence, some jurors sit there and say, ‘hey, wait a minute, how do I know this?’ So you just have to connect all those dots 14 different ways," said legal analyst Lloyd Snook.
Jurors also saw footage recorded by Marissa Martin, who is married to Marcus Martin - who testified on Thursday. The witness talked about she, Martin and Heyer all joining the "happy people" marching on Water Street, and how they all started to head up Fourth Street. Martin began recording on her phone what was going on around her, which turned to "complete chaos," according to the witness: She heard tires screeching, and saw people knocked to the ground. At some point she became separated from Marcus, but found him on the ground.
Alexis Morris and Thomas Baker recounted to the court Monday how they separately ended up with the marching counterprotesters. They described the group walking along Water Street that day as “friendly-looking” and celebratory.
Morris recalled hearing a big "boom" and saw a flash of light. She then realized her legs were broken, and she couldn't find her daughter. Her legs had to be reset with a permanent rod and pins.
Baker said he heard thumps, screaming, and looked up to see a car coming at him. He was directly hit in his lower half, and then hit his head on the windshield before getting sent over the top of the car and landing on the road. The commonwealth reviewed to the jury photos of the incident with Baker in them. The witness said the injuries have permeated every aspect of his life, that the range of motion in his hip is dramatically altered and he can no longer comfortably run or jump.
There was also more testimony Monday from eye witnesses: Peter Jasiurkowski said that he and his friend passed a Dodge Challenger creeping down Fourth Street. According to the witness, the car turned on reverse lights, but soon he heard a loud acceleration. Jasiurkowski turned and saw the Challenger speed down Fourth St. He said he and his friend stood in shock, then saw the car come back up the street in reverse, saying the Dodge was traveling as fast as it was going before.
Melissa Elliott affirmed the account given by her boyfriend, Michael Webster - who testified on Thursday. The couple noticed the group of people who were filling up the intersection of Water Street and Fourth Street, and the Dodge Challenger slowly reversing back up toward Market Street. They heard an engine rev, and Elliott saw the Dodge speed forward toward Water Street. Elliot said Webster ran to help people who had been hit. She then saw the Dodge quickly backing up again toward Market St., telling jurors that she feared the car was getting ready for another attack.
Court ended for the day just before 3 p.m. Friday. Judge Richard Moore said the prosecution is confident it will rest its case before lunch Tuesday, December 4.