Friday, 15 February, 2019

Fields convicted of first-degree murder in car-ramming trial

White supremacist faces up to 20 years after being found guilty of murder in Charlottesville White supremacist faces up to 20 years after being found guilty of murder in Charlottesville
Melinda Barton | 08 December, 2018, 14:14

White nationalist Richard Spencer, who had been scheduled to speak at the Unite the Right rally, described the verdict as a "miscarriage of justice". His sentencing is expected to begin Monday, and he could be serving life in prison.

In delivering its verdict late Friday afternoon, the jury rejected arguments by lawyers for James Alex Fields Jr. that he acted in self-defense. He was also convicted of five founds of aggravated malicious wounding, one hit and run count and three counts of malicious wounding for injuring others when he plowed his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Defence attorneys never disputed that Fields was behind the wheel of the Dodge Charger that sent bodies flying when it crashed into a crowd on 12 August previous year, killing counter-protester Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring 19 others.

Prosecutors told the court that Fields attacked the protesters after he witnessed earlier clashes between them and other white nationalists earlier in the day. She testified she and Calhoun were approached by Fields and another man, who suggested they travel together as there is safety in numbers.

Separately, Fields also faces dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes, which could result in the death penalty.

President Donald Trump was widely condemned after he said "both sides" were to blame for the violence.

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.

During the trial, prosecutors introduced evidence that Mr. Fields meant to commit harm when he drove from OH to attend the rally, which featured neo-Nazis bearing swastikas and Ku Klux Klan members.

Prosecutors portrayed Fields as an angry white supremacist motivated by hate as he plowed into the crowd, showing a text message he sent containing an image of Adolf Hitler and a meme posted on Instagram showing bodies tossed into the air after a auto plows into a crowd identified as "protesters".

Fields referred to Heyer's mother in a recorded jailhouse phone call as a "communist" and "one of those anti-white supremacists".

One of Fields' former teachers said he was known in high school for being fascinated with Nazism and idolising Adolf Hitler. When Fields' mother responded, she noted how Heyer's mother Susan Bro "lost her daughter". She also made reference to a text message that he sent a day before the rally. A video of Fields being interrogated after the crash showed him sobbing and hyperventilating after he was told a woman had died and others were seriously injured. When his mother pleaded with him to be careful, he replied: "we're not the one (sic) who need to be careful".