An attorney for an Arkansas man who can be seen kicking DeAndre Harris in the face in videos of the August 12 Market Street Parking Garage brawl at the summer’s Unite the Right rally is now asking for a change of venue for his client’s upcoming trial.
Elmer Woodard—the lawyer from Blairs who represents Jacob Goodwin, as well as “Crying Nazi” Chris Cantwell and KKK leader Richard Preston—says Goodwin can’t get a fair trial in Charlottesville.
For one, because jurors are likely to park in the closest garage, which also happens to be the scene of the crime.
And if a judge bars them from parking there, their second choice could lead them to Charlottesville Circuit Court up Heather Heyer Way—the street recently renamed in honor of the 32-year-old woman who was killed on the day of Goodwin’s alleged offense.
“I think that’s a huge problem in seating a jury,” Woodard told the judge. Jurors are not legally allowed to visit a crime scene outside of the court’s control, he added.
But a parking problem isn’t the only reason he said his client can’t be tried here.
Woodard noted that media coverage of Goodwin often mentions Heyer’s death, “inflating” that the man who came to court in a gray and white-striped jail jumpsuit, with a brown beard and long, braided ponytail, was involved. Charlottesville residents aren’t able to be impartial about whether he should be found guilty of malicious wounding, said the attorney.
There’s also the potential for “sleeper activists,” he said—a phrase that Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler’s attorney, Mike Hallahan, said in a motion to change the venue of Kessler’s perjury trial. These people, the lawyers say, would intentionally try to be seated on the jury to convict unfavorable defendants.
Woodard said he no longer pays attention to what’s reported in local media about his clients.
“I had to stop reading [it] because my eyes crossed,” he said.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina-Alice Antony agreed with Woodard that jurors parking in the garage on Market Street could be problematic, but said the defense’s argument that seating a jury would be difficult is irrelevant.
“It’s not whether seating the jury will be difficult, it’s whether the court can seat an impartial jury,” she said. During the voir dire portion of the trial, Woodard will have the opportunity to examine and interview potential jurors, and motion to strike individuals he deems unfit from the jury pool.
Judge Rick Moore agreed that he could seat an impartial jury, but took the motion under advisement to consider the parking dilemma. He also denied a defense motion to exclude evidence.
The evidence in question was a surveillance video of the attack, which plays at 15 frames per second, while all other known videos that will be admitted during the trial are 30 frames per second.
Woodard opened his argument on that motion in an unusual way. In his initial statement, he only actually voiced every other word to the judge, or half the sentence.
He said a video that plays at 15 frames per second shows only half of what happened and would be misleading to a jury, as it was misleading to the judge when he spoke every other word of a sentence.
“You didn’t mislead me,” said Moore. “I just didn’t know what you were saying.”
Goodwin’s two-day jury trial is scheduled to begin April 30.