The prosecution rested today in the trial of James Alex Fields Jr. and the defense began its case, both sides focusing on the defendant during and after his arrest August 12, 2017.
In prosecution videos of Fields after he was taken into police custody, he repeatedly apologized, asked about any injuries, and hyperventilated for more than two minutes during his interrogation. The jury also heard recordings of two phone calls from jail between Fields and his mother, in which he seemed much less apologetic.
In a December 7, 2017, call, Fields can be heard asking his mom an unintelligible question about “that one girl who died.” We can assume that this is Heather Heyer, whom he’s on trial for murdering when he drove his gray Dodge Challenger into a crowd on Fourth Street.
He then mentions that Heyer’s mother has been giving “speeches and shit,” and “slandering” him. “She’s one of those anti-white communists,” Fields says on the recording. And his mother, seemingly reacting to his insensitivity, points out that Heyer died, and that her mother loved her.
Responds Fields, “It doesn’t fucking matter, she’s a communist. It’s not up for questioning. She is. She’s the enemy.”
In a March 21, 2018, phone call between Fields and his mom, Fields complained that he was “not doing anything wrong” on August 12, “and then I get mobbed by a violent group of terrorist for defending my person.”
And he claimed “antifa” were waving ISIS flags at the Unite the Right rally. His mom expressed some kind of intelligible dissent, and suggested he stop talking. “They’re communist, mother, they do support them,” he countered.
Also entered into evidence were text messages between Fields and his mom before the rally. On August 8, he told her he’d gotten the weekend off to go to the rally, and on August 10, she responded with, “Be careful.” And on August 11, he said, “We’re not the [ones] who need to be careful.” He attached an image of Adolf Hitler along with it.
Before resting his case, Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania also played bodycam footage from Detective Steve Young, who appeared on the scene of Monticello Avenue and Blenheim Road as Fields was being detained.
In the audio of the interaction, Fields appeared to be cooperating with police, and repeated multiple iterations of “I’m sorry.”
When Young asked what he was sorry for, he said, “I didn’t want to hurt people, but I thought they were attacking me. …Even if they are [unintelligible], I still feel bad for them. They’re still people.”
He said he had an empty suitcase—”a family heirloom”—in his trunk, and asked police not to throw it away.
Fields also indicated leg pain, and when asked if he needed medical attention, he said, “I’d prefer if they see to the people who were rioting.”
He asked multiple times about any injuries sustained when he drove his car into the crowd on Fourth Street. And once he was taken to the Charlottesville Police Department for interrogation, he finally got his answer.
“There are people with severe injuries. I know one has passed away,” answered Detective Brady Kirby, as heard on the recording. For the next two or three minutes, Fields can be heard hyperventilating. He simultaneously cries while struggling to breathe.
At this point in the courtroom, Fields sat hunched over between his two attorneys, watching the video intently and quickly flicking his pen back and forth. Usually seated to the right of his lawyers, he traded places with one of them for a clearer view.
Once at the local jail, Fields could be heard telling the magistrate in another recording that as he pulled onto Fourth Street, he had his GPS turned on and he was just trying to go home. He saw two cars stopped at the bottom of the street and began backing up. He said he felt a “really weird” emotion once he saw the counterprotesters.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he said, and never mentioned driving into them.
He also requested to have his face washed before getting his mugshot taken.
After the commonwealth rested, defense attorney John Hill moved to strike all of the charges against his client except for the hit-and-run. He said the prosecutors failed to prove that Fields showed intent to kill and actual malice. But Judge Rick Moore overruled the motions, and said, “I don’t know what intent he could have had other than to kill people.”
The defense called four witnesses, including Deputy Paul Critzer, who chased Fields in his cruiser and eventually cuffed him.
Critzer said he followed Fields for almost a mile, and Fields eventually pulled over on Monticello Avenue. The deputy then instructed him to put his hands outside the window, and started moving toward the Challenger when Fields drew his hands back inside and smashed on the gas. Critzer then chased him for what he described as less than a football field of length before Fields stopped again, and following Critzer’s commands, he threw his hands and keys outside of his window.
That’s when Critzer approached him from the passenger side—another officer had met Fields on the driver’s side—and slapped the cuffs on him.
Deputy Fred Kirschnick described Fields as “very quiet” “very wide-eyed” and “sweating profusely,” as he waited to be taken to the police department for questioning. He smelled a “light to moderate” stench of urine on Fields, which matches the description of a yellow stain on his shirt that others had testified to.
Lunsford also called city officer Tammy Shifflet, who was stationed at the intersection of Fourth and Market streets that morning, and who left her post before the car attack because things had gotten too chaotic.
She said she called her commander to ask for assistance, and he directed her to meet up with other officers. There was a small barricade she described as a “sawhorse” blocking Fourth Street when she left.
The defense is expected to call approximately eight more witnesses. Closing arguments could happen Thursday with a jury verdict as soon as Friday, according to the judge.