Lawyers for the man accused of slamming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters after the Aug. 12, 2017, Unite the Right rally met with prosecutors and a Charlottesville circuit judge Monday to iron out details for the upcoming three-week trial.
James A. Fields Jr., 21, faces 10 state charges related to the rally, including first-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer, 32, as well as 30 federal hate crime charges, some of which could result in the death penalty.
Fields’ trial in Charlottesville Circuit Court is set to begin Nov. 26, according to court records.
The state and federal trials will be separate, court officials said, although similar testimony and arguments are expected at both trials, as well appearances by many of the same witnesses.
Monday afternoon’s meeting was to allow for “housekeeping” between attorneys and the judge. It was conducted in the chambers of Judge Richard E. Moore. Several similar meetings have occurred as the Circuit Court and attorneys prepare for the logistically complex trial.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for Dec. 7 in Fields’ federal case “to afford time to the government to complete discovery, the defense time to review it, and for the capital case review process to proceed,” federal court documents show.
No trial date has been set on the federal charges, to which Fields has pleaded not guilty.
Moore said no motions were heard or made in Monday’s Circuit Court meeting.
However, Moore did enter two orders — one that will govern audience expression during the trial and another that addresses safety and security. Further details on the orders were not available Monday.
At an Aug. 30 pretrial motions hearing, Moore heard a request from Fields’ defense team seeking a change of venue due to extensive publicity about the case. The change would move the trial out of Charlottesville on the basis that publicity involving the incident and ensuing legal procedures will make it difficult to choose a non-partial jury.
Moore took the motion under advisement, but indicated that he believes an impartial jury can be selected. If the jury selection process shows that an impartial 12-person panel cannot be seated, he said he would reconsider it.
At that hearing, Moore also indicated the jury pool consisted of 360 people. The 2011 high-profile trial of George Huguely V — a then-University of Virginia lacrosse player who eventually was convicted of murdering fellow UVa student and lacrosse player Yeardley Love — pulled from a jury pool of 320 people.
Fields is scheduled for another pretrial conference on Nov. 8, the last one before his trial begins, court records show.