Defense argued 21-year-old was ‘scared for his life’…
(AFP) James Alex Fields Jr. was found guilty of first-degree murder on Friday, 16 months after ramming his car into counter-protesters during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A jury also found the 21-year-old guilty of five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three of malicious wounding, and one hit-and-run count, according to media including NBC News and The Washington Post.
The Aug. 12, 2017 violence in Charlottesville, which claimed the life of 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injured dozens more, turned the Virginia city into a symbol of racial violence, joining the ranks of others, like Ferguson, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Charleston, S.C. that were riven with riots and other violence, particularly during the twilight years of the Obama presidency.
To date, it is the only such protest to have happened on the watch of President Donald Trump, although many also directed blame at Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe—a close friend and associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s. Charlottesville’s all-Democrat City Council was criticized also for responding inappropriately by ordering its police force to stand down and for piling on the heated rhetoric in the days before the event, which was organized by a former Obama supporter, Jason Kessler, to protest the attempted removal of two Confederate statues against the wishes of many community members.
Fields’ defense team did not contest that he was behind the wheel of the gray Dodge Challenger when it struck activists—many associated with the extreme-Left group Antifa—who had descended upon the college town that Thomas Jefferson called home and where he established the University of Virginia.
But the defense argued their client was “scared for his life” as he was overrun by a mob of counter-protestors—some armed with guns, pepper spray, home-made flamethrowers and other incendiary devices.
The prosecution called multiple witnesses and victims who recounted in some cases what turned out to be life-altering injuries.
The witnesses testified the event had become peaceful, “joyful” and “celebratory” after city authorities ordered the far right to disperse—countering the defense’s narrative of a hostile, frightening atmosphere at the time of the attack.
Earlier in the week they presented jurors a text Fields sent to his mother before departing for the rally after she had asked him to be careful.
“We’re not the one [sic] who need to be careful” he replied, alongside a photo of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.