Charlottesville is bracing for the maelstrom of media attention that is expected to accompany the murder trial of James Alex Fields Jr.
Two orders dictating behavior at the Charlottesville Circuit Court House were released Monday give an idea of what the city is expecting.
Signed by Judge Richard E. Moore, one of the orders instates a ban on electronic devices, backpacks, purses, firearms, bags and any item that the judge or a bailiff could deem disruptive on the court premises from Nov. 26 through Dec. 14. The premises are defined as anywhere within the courthouse, courtroom and ground outside the courthouse, which includes the front steps, according to the order.
Though the clerk’s office will remain open during week trial, which is scheduled for three weeks, the same restrictions will apply for those visiting the office, said Charlottesville Clerk of Court Llezelle Dugger.
No other hearings are scheduled for the three week period, but Dugger said some early morning first appearance hearings could happen and likely would be done via video.
Similar to the high-profile 2012 trial of George Huguely — a former University of Virginia lacrosse player who was convicted of slaying former girlfriend and fellow lacrosse player Yeardley Love — a secondary viewing location has been set up on the second floor of the Levy Opera House.
Moore’s second order applies the same restrictions to the viewing room at Levy Opera House, effectively establishing it as a second courtroom. A live camera feed will show the hearing for those who are unable to get into the courtroom, though no cameras will be allowed in either the courtroom or the viewing room.
Unlike the Charlottesville Circuit Court building, the restricted items will only be prohibited in the second floor courtroom, according to Dugger.
Joe Rice, deputy director of the communications for Charlottesville, said Moore was expected to sign a finalized media plan late Monday. That plan will likely be released Tuesday and will detail the logistics of the trial set up for members of the media. The plan also is expected to discuss road closures. Additionally, Rice said, a webpage on the city’s site will be established to make the information easily accessible for the community.
Though there is not yet an estimate of how many media outlets are expected for the Fields trial, Huguely’s trial drew approximately 35 media outlets and 175 media workers.
Fields is charged with a slew of crimes, including murder, in the Aug. 12, 2017 car attack that killed 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer and wounded dozens of others. Fields also is facing the death penalty on multiple federal charges stemming from the attack.
Fields’ trial in Charlottesville Circuit Court is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 26.