Neo-nazi found guilty of murder
Man rammed into woman and others at rally
WASHINGTON: An American neo-Nazi was found guilty of murder for killing a woman when ramming his car into counter-protesters at a 2017 white supremacist rally that made Charlottesville a byword for racial violence under President Donald Trump.
In addition to first-degree murder, which carries a possible life sentence, James Alex Fields Jr
(pic), 21, was found guilty of five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three of malicious wounding, and one hit-and-run count.
A jury of seven women and five men reached their verdict near the end of the first day of deliberations of a trial that lasted a little under two weeks.
The Aug 12, 2017, violence, which claimed the life of 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injured dozens more, turned the bucolic university city in Virginia into a symbol of the growing audacity of the far right under Trump.
The president drew broad criticism in the aftermath when he spoke of “blame on both sides,” appearing to establish a moral equivalence between the white supremacists who came to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, and those who opposed them.
Some relatives of the victims, who had taken their seats behind the prosecution on the right hand side of the Charlottesville Circuit Court throughout the trial, sobbed quietly as the verdict was read out.
“I am feeling the best I have felt in almost a year and a half,” said Wednesday “Al” Bowie, a survivor of the attack whose pelvis was shattered in six places.
“This trial has been a healing process. It’s also been tearing open some old wounds.”
Sentencing will be tomorrow as jurors were given the option to recommend between 20 years and life for the murder conviction.
While the fact that Fields had struck the protesters in his Dodge Challenger was not contested, his lawyers and prosecutors had offered contrasting narratives over his state of mind and intentions on that day.
The defence said in their opening statements Fields had been “scared for his life” -hoping, according to observers, if not for an outright acquittal, that the jury might find him guilty of a lesser charge such as second-degree murder.
Fields had driven overnight from his hometown Maumee, Ohio, to support the “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, the top general of the pro-slavery Confederacy during the 1861-1865 American Civil War.
Dressed in a white polo shirt and khaki pants, the uniform of the white supremacists, he took part in racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic chants, according to footage played in the courtroom.
The prosecution played videos that showed Fields stop his car and reverse up a hill before commencing his deadly assault on a crowd of counter-protesters who were singing and celebrating after city officials had ordered the far right to leave.
Justice done: Susan Bro (centre), mother of Heyer, being escorted out of the courthouse by friends after the guilty verdict on Fields Jr.