Fields Trial Day 11: Victim Statements, Forensic Psychologist Testifies, Jury Deliberates Sentencing
Jurors in the James A. Fields, Junior trial may soon be delivering their sentencing recommendation to Judge Richard Moore. They began deliberating at 3:11 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Jurors in the James Alex Fields, Jr. trial will resume sentence deliberation on Tuesday at 10 a.m. They began deliberating their recommended sentences on the 10 charges Fields has been found guilty of at 3 p.m. Monday, December 10.
The penalty phase of the murder trial got off to a late start Monday in Charlottesville Circuit Court. The same jury of seven women and five men that found Fields guilty of first-degree murder and nine other charges Friday, December 7, will be recommending a prison sentence for the Ohio man.
The jury heard a handful victim impact testimony Monday, as well as from a medical expert. The victims told the court about the lasting physical and emotional impact they have endured from when Fields drove his car into people marching against the Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017. The attack injured dozens, and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, opened her statements Monday by detailing the injuries her daughter suffered: Bro said Heather bled out internally within minutes of being struck. She said her daughter was, "full of love, justice, and fairness. Mr. Fields tried to silence that with his car, but I will not allow it."
Bro said almost every member of her family has gone through grief therapy, which she said only helps a little. The mother told jurors she can't even go to the grocery store without being interviewed or asked questions about her daughter and sometimes has to go home to sit behind closed curtains.
"I do not hate Mr. Fields," Bro later said on the witness stand. "I'm leaving him in the hands of justice."
"Please know that the world is not a safe place with Fields in it," Bowie told the jury before leaving the stand Monday.
The defense called to the stand Dr. Daniel Murrie, an expert in the field of forensic psychology. He performed a court-appointed mental health evaluation of Fields after the car attack.
The doctor testified Fields' father and both grandfathers were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Fields first saw a bipolar specialist at age 6, and was put on psychiatric medication. He was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility at age 7 and again at age 10. Fields was sent to a residential treatment facility at age 14 to receive a more structured education. Fields also saw an autism specialist after showing symptoms for Asperger's. He also was diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder.
Murrie said Fields showed explosive, volatile reactions to everyday stressors. The doctor said Fields' violence was often directed toward people who try to correct him or make requests of him.
Fields’ intellectual ability was normal, except for slow processing speed. He was accepted to Fishburne Academy, but was unaccepted because of psychiatric medication. Fields worked with doctors to taper his medications so he could go to military academy. He went to boot camp, but failed a fitness test, and lost interest.
Fields eventually got a job as a security guard, but he still has unexplained outbursts.
In his opinion, Dr. Murrie said Fields did not qualify for the insanity defense criteria. Murrie said his explosive emotions point toward bipolar, and flat, emotionless states point to autism. He said the medication Fields’ is on now explains his flat demeanor during the trial.
Defense attorney Denise Lunsford said Fields' mental health history is not to offer an excuse for his actions, but rather an explanation and to provide context.
The 21-year-old Ohio man could receive multiple life sentences. Judge Richard Moore will consider the jury’s recommendations, but will ultimately decide Fields’ punishment.