Neo-Nazi guilty of mur­der in deadly 2017 Char­lottes­ville car ram­page

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

>> WASHINGTON: An Amer­i­can neo-Nazi was found guilty of mur­der on Fri­day 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, 21, was found guilty of five counts of ag­gra­vated ma­li­cious wound­ing, three of ma­li­cious wound­ing, and one hit-an­drun 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 Au­gust 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 Mr 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 on Wed­nes­day “Al” Bowie, one of the sur­vivors 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 be­gin to­mor­row, with jurors 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.

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.

Jeanne “Star” Peter­son told the court she used to be fast on her feet until her right leg was shat­tered by Fields’ car, and only re­cently learned to walk again unas­sisted. “I saw Heather Heyer up in the air and re­mem­ber think­ing to my­self: that’s what some­one’s eyes look like when they are dead”, Ms Peter­son said.

MARCH­ING RIGHT: James Alex Fields Jr at­tends the ‘Unite the Right’ rally last year.

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