The injuries that took Heather Heyer’s life after last year’s racist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia captivated the court on the third day of testimony in the first-degree murder trial of neo-Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields Jr.
Five more eyewitnesses also told their personal stories of the horror from when 21-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters following the Aug. 12, 2017 rally. The crash killed Heyer and injured more than a dozen other people.
Fields has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges, although his defense team has acknowledged that he was behind the wheel of the car that plowed into the crowd.
Here are five key moments from Monday at the trial:
1. Trying to save Heyer
Charlottesville Fire Captain Nick Barrell found Heather Heyer on the ground with civilians performing CPR when he arrived on the scene just minutes after the incident. Barrell told jurors that Heyer had a large bruise across her chest and very likely internal injuries.
Barrell took over resuscitation efforts with other paramedics.
“We’re being really aggressive trying to resuscitate her,” Barrell said
Heyer died later that day. Barrell’s testimony was the first time jurors heard about the extent of Heyer’s injuries. They also saw a short cellphone video showing some of the resuscitation efforts.
2. Gruesome testimony
Dr. Jennifer Bowers, the assistant chief medical examiner for the Western District of Virginia, testified that Heyer suffered severe damage after being struck by Fields’ car. She detailed Heyer’s injuries including broken ribs, punctured lungs, a large bruise to her chest, deep cuts and the destruction of the main artery leading from her heart.
“It was snapped in half,” Bowers said of Heyer’s aorta.
The testimony directly contradicted the false narrative some "alt-right" adherents, including Bradley Dean Griffin of Occidental Dissent and Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer, pushed online after the attack. Griffin wrote on Sept. 5, 2017 that Heyer had a heart attack. It was a lie they persisted in pushing, even after the initial cause of death was released as blunt force trauma to the torso.
3. ‘A big boom and a flash of light’
Alexis Morris, a Charlottesville resident for 10 years, was on the downtown mall on August 12, 2017, and was hit by the car when Fields rammed the crowd.
“As we were walking, it was just like a big boom and a flash of light,” Morris said.
She had a broken leg after being hit.
“Could you see your bone sticking out?” Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Nina Antony asked.
“Yes,” Morris replied.
Morris now has a permanent rod in her leg from the knee to the ankle.
Thomas Baker was also with the counterprotestors that day and was near the front of the crowd when Fields drove through.
“I was frustrated by the thought ‘That’s how my last second was going to be’,” Baker told jurors.
Baker was hit by the car, thrown onto the windshield and fell to the ground. Baker described the four permanent screws and sutures in his hip. He said he’ll eventually need a hip replacement.
4. More DNA matches
Kristin Van Itallie, a DNA analyst for the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, said blood and soft tissue matching Heyer was found on three places on Fields' car: the front passenger bumper, passenger side mirror and the grill. Van Itallie’s testimony echoed that of a Charlottesville police detective who testified on Friday about Heyer’s DNA being found on the car.
Van Itallie said there was very little chance the DNA came from anyone else.
5. Speedy trial
Prosecutors were expected to rest their case by lunchtime on Tuesday after calling about two dozen witnesses over four days of testimony.
“We’re really ahead of schedule,” Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard E. Moore told jurors before dismissing them for the day just before 3 p.m. local time on Monday.
Attorneys for Fields, who have hinted at a self-defense argument, are expected to begin presenting their case Tuesday afternoon.