Attorneys for the state and for James Alex Fields Jr. agreed Thursday that the court should not seek to correct potential jurors’ stated biases during the jury selection process.
With less than two weeks before the start of Fields’ trial, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Moore heard arguments on a motion from the defense to prevent jury rehabilitation.
In some cases, a judge may ask a potential juror to ignore a stated bias and base their verdict on the evidence and the law.
Given the publicity of the case and impact of the car attack for which Fields is charged on the Charlottesville community, ensuring a fair trial is a priority, Moore said.
“My main concern is a fair trial, and I think the means to the end should be ensuring an unbiased jury,” he said.
The prosecution agreed with the intent of the motion, but asked Moore to take it under advisement since the trial has not begun.
Moore took the motion under advisement, and plans to revisit it when the trial begins.
In August, Fields’ attorney, Denise Lunsford, filed a motion to move the trial, arguing that an unbiased jury could not be seated in Charlottesville.
Fields’ charges stem from an Aug. 12, 2017 car attack that followed the failed Unite the Right rally.
At a hearing over her August motion, Lunsford argued that the rally and the car attack have affected everyone in Charlottesville to one degree or another.
Lunsford also argued that widespread coverage of Fields by local media had biased the jury pool, and presented more than 2,000 pages of news stories evidence.
Moore opted to take the motion into consideration and said he believed an unbiased jury could be found. Prosecutors are utilizing a juror questionnaire to detect bias in potential jurors before the trial and remove them from the pool.
Moore has indicated that the jury pool consists of 360 people, the largest in recent memory. The high-profile 2011 trial of George Huguely V — a former University of Virginia lacrosse player who eventually was convicted of slaying fellow UVa student and lacrosse player Yeardley Love — pulled from a jury pool of 320 people.
Both the motion to prevent juror rehabilitation and change the trial location are likely to be revisited when Fields’ three week trial begins on Nov. 26.