Friday, 14 December, 2018

Virginia city hopes to heal after man's murder conviction

The Dodge Challenger allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr. moments after the rampage in Charlottesville Virginia The Dodge Challenger allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr. moments after the rampage in Charlottesville Virginia
Deanna Wagner | 08 December, 2018, 14:12

A white nationalist who killed a counterprotester in Virginia past year was convicted on Friday of first-degree murder and eight other charges.

Fields ― a 21-year-old extremist associated with the hate group Vanguard America ― faced charges of first-degree murder and other felonies over the attack, in which he intentionally sped into protesters after the "Unite the Right" rally on August 12, killing one and injuring dozens more.

Fields' lawyers claimed he had feared for his life after witnessing the scenes and acted in self-defence.

He was charged with first-degree murder over Heyer's death and five counts of aggravated malicious wounding along with three counts of malicious wounding and one count of a felony hit and run.

A jury needed a little more than seven hours to convict Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, in the killing of Heyer during a "Unite the Right" rally in Virginia on August 12, 2017.

Violence broke out as counter protesters clashed with white nationalists, prompting Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency.

As a large group of counter-protesters marched through Charlottesville singing and laughing, Fields stopped his vehicle, backed up and then sped into the crowd, according to testimony from witnesses and video surveillance shown to jurors.

Remember that Unite the Right rally that went down in Charlottesville past year?

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Fields lives in OH with his mother.

The rally was held to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. When Fields' mother responded, she noted how Heyer's mother Susan Bro "lost her daughter". And many also wore red Make America Great Again hats, saying they were encouraged in the public display of their beliefs by U.S. President Donald Trump, who later that week would say that there were "very fine people" on both sides of the demonstration.

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.

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

Jurors also saw a text exchange shortly before the rally in which Fields told his mother he was planning to attend, and she told him to be careful.

Three months before the incident, Fields also posted a meme on Instagram, showing an image of a crowd of people being hit by a vehicle.

One of Fields' former teachers said he was known in high school for being fascinated with Nazism and idolising Adolf Hitler. 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. He still faces a federal trial on hate crimes that carries the possibility of the death penalty.