Char­lottesville driver con­victed of mur­der

Hartford Courant - - World & Nation - By Joe Heim and Kristine Phillips The Wash­ing­ton Post

CHAR­LOTTESVILLE, Va. — An avowed sup­porter of neo-Nazi be­liefs who took part in the vi­o­lent and chaotic white su­prem­a­cist “Unite the Right” rally in this city last year was found guilty Fri­day of first-de­gree mur­der for killing a woman by ram­ming his car through a crowd of coun­ter­protesters.

A jury of seven women and five men be­gan de­lib­er­at­ing Fri­day and took just over seven hours to reach its de­ci­sion that James Fields Jr., 21, of Maumee, Ohio, acted with pre­med­i­ta­tion.

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 35 oth­ers in­jured, many griev­ously.

Fields ap­peared stoic as the ver­dict was read. Judge Richard Moore told ju­rors they would re­con­vene Mon­day for a sen­tenc­ing hear­ing. The jury will hear ev­i­dence and then will rec­om­mend a sen­tence to the judge.

The deadly at­tack in the early af­ter­noon of Aug. 12, 2017, cul­mi­nated a dark 24 hours in this quiet col­lege town. It was marked by a men­ac­ing torch­light march through the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia cam­pus the night be­fore, with par­tic­i­pants shout­ing racist and anti-Semitic in­sults, and wild street bat­tles on the morn­ing of the planned rally.

Many in their em­bold­ened ranks shouted fas­cist slo­gans, dis­played Nazi swastikas and Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flags and ex­tended their arms in Sieg Heil salutes. And many also wore red Make Amer­ica Great Again hats, say­ing they were en­cour­aged in the pub­lic dis­play of their be­liefs by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Fields’ con­vic­tion fol­lowed six days of tes­ti­mony in Char­lottesville Cir­cuit Court, where Heyer’s deadly in­juries were de­tailed and sur­vivors of the crash de­scribed the chaos and their own in­juries.

De­fense at­tor­neys Denise Lunsford and John Hill did not deny Fields drove the car that killed Heyer and in­jured dozens. But they said it was not out of mal­ice, rather out of fear for his own safety and con­fu­sion.

“He wasn’t an­gry, he was scared,” Lunsford told the jury in her clos­ing ar­gu­ment.

Prose­cu­tors, though, said Fields was en­raged when he drove more than 500 miles from his apart­ment in Ohio to take part in the rally — and later chose to act on that anger by ram­ming his two-door mus­cle car into the crowd.

The guilty ver­dict for Fields is not the end of his le­gal trou­bles. He still faces a fed­eral trial on hate crimes that car­ries the pos­si­bil­ity of the death penalty.

Associated Press contributed.


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