Fi­nal ar­gu­ments done, Char­lottesville case headed to jury

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Denise Lavoie

CHAR­LOTTESVILLE, Va. — A pros­e­cu­tor told a jury on Thurs­day that James Alex Fields Jr. had hate and vi­o­lence in his mind when he de­lib­er­ately drove his car into a crowd of coun­ter­protesters at a white na­tion­al­ist rally, killing one woman, in­jur­ing dozens and leav­ing bod­ies strewn on the ground.

As pros­e­cu­tors urged ju­rors to find Fields guilty of first- de­gree mur­der and other felonies for the deadly Au­gust 2017 crash, his lawyers made a fi­nal at­tempt to con­vince them that Fields had plowed into the crowd out of fear.

The jury is sched­uled to be­gin de­lib­er­at­ing the case Fri­day morn­ing.

Dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments Thurs­day, pros­e­cu­tors por­trayed Fields as a white na­tion­al­ist who be­came an­gry after po­lice forced crowds at the rally to dis­band. The po­lice ac­tion fol­lowed vi­o­lent clashes be­tween the white na­tion­al­ists who de­scended on Char­lottesville to protest plans to re­move a statute of Con­fed­er­ate Gen. Robert E. Lee and coun­ter­demon­stra­tors who showed up to op­pose the white na­tion­al­ists.

Se­nior As­sis­tant Com­mon­wealth’s At­tor­ney Nina-Al­ice Antony re­minded the ju­rors about a text mes­sage sent by Fields the day be­fore the rally that in­cluded an im­age of Adolf Hitler. Fields sent the text to his mother in re­sponse to her plea for him to be care­ful. Fields wrote: ‘ we’re not the one ( sic) who need to be care­ful,” ac­com­pa­nied by Hitler’s im­age.

Antony also re­peat­edly re­minded the ju­rors about a meme Fields posted on In­sta­gram three months be­fore the crash. The im­age shows bod­ies tossed into the air after a car plows into a crowd iden­ti­fied as “protesters.”

“What we have is a man who had a de­ci­sion, and he de­cides to turn his In­sta­gram post into re­al­ity,” she said.

De­fense at­tor­ney Denise Fields Lunsford urged the jury to con­sider the chaos ear­lier that day, when street fights broke out be­tween the two groups and tear gas was thrown.

Lunsford said Fields had urine thrown at him, had been yelled at by coun­ter­protesters and found him­self alone and un­pro­tected as he at­tempted to leave Char­lottesville and drive back to his home in Maumee.

She said he saw a large crowd down the street sur­round­ing two other cars and feared he would be at­tacked.

“Look at the cir­cum­stances as they ap­peared to him,” Lunsford said. “He says he felt he was in dan­ger, there were peo­ple com­ing at him.”

Antony told the jury no one was near Fields’ car when he drove into the crowd. She said he idled in his car for more than a minute be­fore back­ing up, then speed­ing into the crowd.

“He gets to­ward that group and he goes for them,” she said.

Fields, 21, faces charges of first- de­gree mur­der in the death of Heather Heyer, a 32- year- old para­le­gal and civil rights ac­tivist. He also faces five counts of ag­gra­vated ma­li­cious wound­ing, three counts of ma­li­cious wound­ing and a count of leav­ing the scene of an ac­ci­dent.

Lunsford urged the jury to find Fields guilty of “no more than” the lesser charges of man­slaugh­ter in Heyer’s death and un­law­ful wound­ing in the in­juries he caused to oth­ers.

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