Charlottesville Jury Finds Self-Proclaimed Neo-Nazi Defendant Guilty of First-Degree Murder in Death of Protester
A Virginia jury has found James A. Fields Jr., the driver who plowed through a crowd of protesters last year at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, guilty of first-degree murder.
Fields, a 21-year-old self-proclaimed Neo-Nazi, was on trial for the bloody crash which ended the life of Heather Heyer. The section of the street where she was killed has been renamed Heather Heyer Way.
The trial began last week and closing arguments were delivered on Thursday, with jurors deliberating the case for about a day.
The fact that Fields was the driver of a Dodge Challenger that mowed down protesters in the city’s downtown pedestrian mall on Aug. 12, 2017, injuring three dozen and killing Heyler, was not the main question of the case.
Jurors were asked to decide whether Fields sped up and drove toward a group of people he considered to be political enemies or whether his actions were rooted in his defending himself.
The first-degree murder verdict indicates jurors were convinced Fields intended to kill.
Witnesses reportedly testified that no one was around Fields’ car attacking him. They also reported that before accelerating toward the crowd, Fields backed up as if to gain momentum, according to The Washington Post.
Evidence shared by prosecutors included text messages between Fields and his mother on the day of the rally, in which she asks Fields to be safe. He reportedly replied, “We’re not the one who need to be careful,” and included a meme of Hitler.
Three months prior to the crash, Fields also reportedly shared a meme on social media that showed a car plowing into a crowd.
Fields’ defense attorney argued that before the crash he was calm and after the crash apologetic, showing he was scared not angry.
Fields faces life in prison in the case, though is eligible for the death penalty related to federal hate crime charges.