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Man who ran over Charlottesville protester guilty of murder

08 December 2018

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 Trump - to the dismay of many of its residents.

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-and-run count.

The verdict on Friday followed an intense trial.

Among other evidence in the case, jurors saw Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, marching and chanting with white nationalists, a meme Fields had posted months earlier of a auto plowing into a crowd, and a text message he sent his mother the day before the vehicle attack that included a photo of Adolf Hitler. The trial surfaced painful memories and emotions for many in this small city who were in the streets that day or have friends and acquaintances who were injured.

"I'm very happy with the verdict", she said outside the courthouse.

"This is the best I've been in a year and a half", Bowie said.

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While Fields isn't scheduled to be sentenced until next week, news of his conviction was widely celebrated by anti-racist activists and many others as "a small measure of justice for Heather Heyer".

"You can't do that based on the fact that he holds extreme right-wing views", she said.

"He thought people were after him", another defense attorney, Denise Lunsford, told CNN. "He says he felt he was in danger, there were people coming at him".

In its closing argument, the commonwealth hammered home the heart of its case, that Fields was unprovoked and acted with the intent to harm people. In her final address to the jury Thursday, Senior-Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nina-Alice Antony showed a close-up of Fields in his auto to rebut the idea that he was frightened when he acted.

Antony also repeatedly reminded jurors about a meme Fields posted on Instagram three months before the crash.

Prosecutors told the jury that Fields was angry after witnessing violent clashes between the two sides earlier in the day. In response, Antifa and others who stood against Confederate ideals showed up to counter-protest.

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Early in the trial the defence said there would be testimony from witnesses concerning Fields' mental health, but those witnesses were never brought forward.

Hayden Calhoun and his girlfriend declined, Calhoun testified.

Calhoun testified that Fields was calm and seemed exhausted.

"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'".

After his arrest, Fields made a recorded phone call to his mother calling Heyers' mother a "communist" and "one of those anti-white supremacists".

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Man who ran over Charlottesville protester guilty of murder