Fields Trial Day 9: Testimony Concludes, Closing Arguments, Case Turned Over to Jury
Jurors are entering the deliberations phase in the James Alex Fields, Junior trial.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Jurors are entering the deliberations phase in the James Alex Fields, Junior trial.
Defense attorneys rested Thursday, December 6, after calling their final two witnesses to the stand. Attorneys for the 21-year-old Ohio man have been presenting their case to the 16-member jury inside Charlottesville Circuit Court since Tuesday, December 4.
During closing arguments, Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina-Alice Antony reiterated that the case is about intent. She told the jury it is time to answer the central question, "What was in his [Fields’] mind when he flew into the crowd?"
Fields is accused of killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of counterprotesters in a car attack on Fourth Street August 12, 2017. He 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.
Antony talked to the jury about malice, intent, and premeditation during the commonwealth's closing argument. She said Fields used his Dodge Challenger as a weapon, that he acted deliberately when he accelerated into the crowd, and that he meant to do them harm.
Fields had participated in the Unite the Right rally, and believes he was acting in self-defense when he drove into the counterprotesters. The commonwealth said there was no evidence anyone harassed Fields that day, and that no one was near Fields before he drove into the crowd.
Antony said that according to the defense witnesses, Fields was calm on August 12 and nothing was wrong with him. Three people who were with Fields before the car attack - Joshua Matthews, Hayden Calhoun, and Sara Bolstad - all testified that Fields was calm and had invited them to go get lunch.
On the matter of intent, Antony explained that intent can be any amount of time. She said surveillance video shows Fields' intent when he reversed on Fourth Street - away from the crowd - and then sped forward. She said his intent was not to kill Heyer specifically, but to kill any member of the group. On Fourth Street, Fields "seizes his opportunity to make Instagram post a reality."
Defense Attorney Denise Lunsford closed by asking the jury to consider whether Fields acted with actual malice.
Lunsford argued that Fields was 20 years old at the time of the Unite the Right rally. She said, "A meme is not an expression of intent, necessarily." The defense was likely referencing the image Fields posted to his own Instagram account.
The defense finished up by saying that Fields acted out of fear, rather than hatred and malice. Lunsford asked the jury to find Fields guilty on the lesser charges of manslaughter and unlawful wounding.
Antony spoke to the jury a final time about how sometimes memes do mean what they mean, and that Fields turned the meme he posted on social media into a reality. She then showed the jury a photo of Fields during the incident and said that this is "not the face of someone who is scared."
The jury of seven woman and five men will begin deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Friday, December 7. The four alternate jurors were dismissed Thursday.
Court was delayed earlier when Matthews failed to show up on time. The Augusta County man eventually got into contact with authorities, and took the witness stand Thursday afternoon. Following his testimony, Judge Richard Moore ordered that Matthews be detained for contempt of court for failure to appear on time, telling the witness, "I'll deal with you later on today."
Dwayne Dixon, a member of the militia-style Redneck Revolt, was called also called to testify Thursday. He testified that he saw a “gray, muscle car” around the downtown area several times.
Dixon said he did not witness the crash, because he was being interviewed at the corner of Fourth and Jefferson streets. The witness was carrying an AR-15 rifle that day, but testified he kept it “slung, muzzled-down.” He has claimed previously that he used his gun to scare off a man he believes was Fields. During his testimony, Dixon said he could not see the driver because the car had tinted windows.
The commonwealth called Steven Young, a detective with the Charlottesville Police Department, back to the witness stand after the defense rested. Young went over Fields' geo-location information from Facebook to show a timeline of the defendant's movements from that day. It appears some of those timestamps do not support Dixon's statements about where he saw the "gray, muscle car."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.