As jury selection trudged forward Tuesday, the trial of James Alex Fields Jr. appeared unlikely to begin on Wednesday as scheduled.
On Tuesday morning, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Moore said four qualified jurors had been found the day before to hear the case against the Ohio man accused of driving a car into a crowd of people during the Aug. 12, 2017, white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Moore told those individuals to return Wednesday morning, mentioning that he expected a jury to be seated by then.
However, a second group of about 80 potential jurors was told to return to court at 1 p.m. Wednesday. They originally were scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon, but Moore delayed their appointment due to the unforeseen length of individual questioning.
A total of 28 qualified jurors are being sought, though only 12 individuals and four alternates actually will be selected.
By Tuesday evening, all of the 70 people in the initial jury pool had been called to the stand. The last 12 were asked general questions by Moore and counsel and then told to return Wednesday morning for individual questions with counsel. If there is still a need for more qualified jurors, Moore said a second pool will be called. If not, their appearances will be canceled.
“I again thank you for your patience,” Moore told the jury pool Tuesday afternoon. “Jury duty is a service, a duty and a privilege, but we do acknowledge it is an inconvenience.”
Moore, defense attorney John Hill and Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania asked the same questions for each new group called Tuesday, each meant to learn the thoughts and opinions of the potential jurors so a fair trial could be ensured, according to Platania.
Like on Monday, nearly all potential jurors said they were aware of the white supremacist Unite the Right rally and the car attack that injured dozens of people and killed Heather Heyer, a counter-protester. Hill again told potential jurors that they may hear a theory that Fields was acting in self-defense.
Moore already has said that knowing about the attack and even holding a preconceived opinion of Fields are not necessarily disqualifying for jurors.
When 28 qualified jurors are found, both the defense and prosecution each will have six preemptive strikes, allowing them to cut jurors from the eligible pool for any unstated reason.
Jury selection will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Opening remarks are not expected to start until Thursday at the earliest.