Judge: Car crash meme admissible in Charlottesville murder trial

WASHINGTON — The Instagram post shows a car ramming into a crowd of protesters — strikingly reminiscent of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo taken a split-second after James Alex Fields allegedly plowed into counterprotesters on the day of the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Prosecutors told jurors Fields, a 21-year-old Ohio man, posted the meme online twice, approximately three months before the Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12, 2017.

In opening statements, the defense acknowledged Fields was behind the wheel of the Dodge Challenger that struck and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer on Fourth Street.

Jurors heard testimony from Ryan Kelly, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his photo showing Marcus Martin and others flying through the air after being struck.

In the commonwealth’s motion to admit the memes, it included a meme, on left, that was sent through Instagram private message with language added by Fields, “When I see protesters blocking,” and, on right, a meme in a public Instagram post that was put up a few days later. The memes were put online in May 2017, months before the crash. (Images via court documents)

Prosecutors argued the Instagram post was a “blueprint” for the fatal crash, and was indicative of Fields’ “intent, motive and state of mind.”

Defense attorneys tried to prevent the admission of the Instagram post, claiming it was prejudicial. Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard Moore disagreed.

Although jurors heard about the Instagram meme, they have not yet seen it.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up