Fields Trial Day 7: Video and Audio Recordings of Fields Jr. Played for Jury
Jurors are seeing a different side of the man who was behind the wheel of the car attack in downtown Charlottesville on August 12, 2017. The defense is now presenting its case.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Defense attorneys for James Alex Fields, Junior are presenting their case to jurors in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
The commonwealth rested Tuesday, December 4, having presented its case over the course of four days. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, the commonwealth gave jurors new insights into Fields, the man who was behind the wheel of the car attack in downtown Charlottesville on August 12, 2017.
The commonwealth played police body-camera footage from Charlottesville Police Detective Steven Young – who also testified on Friday - while he interacted with Fields at the scene of his arrest on Monticello Avenue. Fields repeatedly said "I'm sorry" during the video while he was being searched. When he is asked why, Fields said "I don't know... I didn't want to hurt anyone... I thought they were attacking me." Fields later said he thought antifa members were attacking him.
Jurors also saw a detective reading Fields his Miranda rights. After hearing of many people being injured and one casualty on Fourth Street, Fields appears to hyperventilate for several minutes before calming down.
Later, Fields was taken to the jail and questioned by a magistrate. Fields told authorities he was trying to go home and saw crowds forming around cars in front of him. He didn't know what to do and said he got a feeling he didn't know how to describe. Fields did not elaborate further in the video.
The nine women and seven men on the jury - four of whom are alternates - have mostly heard testimony from victims of the car attack that occurred hours after the Unite the Right rally was held in downtown Charlottesville.
Fields, who participated in the white nationalist rally, drove his Dodge Challenger into a group of counterprotesters marching onto Fourth Street. Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer was killed, and dozens were injured. The defendant 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.
Tuesday, the jury saw text messages Fields had sent his mother, which included a picture of Adolf Hitler and "We're not the one [sic] who need to be careful" before the Unite the Right rally.
The commonwealth also played a portion of two phone calls made by Fields from jail to his mother:
- On March 21, 2018, Fields described the crowd at Fourth and Water streets to her as a violent group of terrorists and claimed the crowd was waving ISIS flags.
- In a call on December 7, 2017, Fields said that Heather Heyer's mother was slandering his name. He called her an "anti-white communist" and said "she's the enemy."
Brent Meyer, a specialist with the FBI, investigated posts Fields made to social media. Jurors saw posts Fields made to his Instagram account in May 2017 that show a car colliding with bicyclists and text saying, "YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO PROTEST BUT IM LATE FOR WORK," as well as a private message of the same image with text saying, "PROTEST BUT IM LATE FOR WORK!!"
Meyer said he was not able to determine if Fields was the original creator of those meme images.
The defense called four members of law enforcement to the witness stand Tuesday, starting with Detective Jeremy Carper - he had also testified on Friday. Carper told the court that he did not find any weapons, helmets, or shields in Fields’ Dodge Challenger during his investigation. Photos taken by police of the car interior were shared with the jury.
Officer Tammy Shifflett was assigned to direct traffic at the intersection of Fourth and Market streets on August 12, 2017. She testified that an angry and violent crowd approached her after police had declared an unlawful assembly in then-Emancipation Park – which was around 11:40 a.m.
Shifflett said she called for assistance and tried to break up fights, but that she began feeling the effects of tear gas. Her commander instructed her to leave the location on Market Street. The officer said she was not aware if a replacement was going to be sent, but the traffic barrier was still in place when she left.
During cross examination, Shifflett told the commonwealth that there was no crowd on Market Street at the time of the car attack – which occurred around 1:30 p.m. - and nobody was at the intersection of Fourth and Market streets.
Deputy Paul Critzer of the Charlottesville Sheriff’s Office said he pursued Fields from Market Street with his lights and sirens on. The deputy said Fields seemed calm when he eventually stopped on Monticello Ave. He also said Fields stated, "I'm sorry" while being detained.
Fred Kirschnick of the Albemarle County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene on Monticello Ave., as well. He said Fields appeared calm and wide-eyed, and was cooperative.
Judge Moore told jurors that they should expect to hear from seven or eight witnesses Wednesday, and one more on Thursday. The judge said closing arguments could be presented Thursday afternoon.