James Alex Fields, Jr claims he was acting in self-defense when he plowed his car into a crowd during Charlottesville’s Unite The Right protest last year. The rally, which garnered national media attention was organized in objection to the removal of a Confederate Gen. Robert Ulysses S. Grant statue.
Jury selection for the trial began Monday, (Nov. 26) and Fields’ attorney John Hill spoke to the potential jurors stating evidence will prove the 21-year-old “thought he was acting in self-defense.” Fields is facing 10 state charges, including first-degree murder and malicious wounding, as well as 30 federal counts of hate crimes, which will result in the death penalty.
Federal prosecutors argued Fields has a rich history as a Nazi sympathizer who’s used social media to spew racist rhetoric against blacks and Jews. The indictment outlines that after the rally was over, Fields drove to the counterprotest and backed up his vehicle onto the top of a hill.
“Fields then rapidly accelerated, ran through a stop sign and across a raised pedestrian mall, and drove directly into the crowd, striking numerous individuals, killing Heather Heyer, and injuring many others,’’ the indictment reads. “Fields’ vehicle stopped only when it struck another vehicle … He then rapidly reversed his vehicle and fled the scene.’’
After the rally, Donald Trump further fueled the racial tensions by stating “both sides were to blame.”
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro has been a vocal advocate for her daughter. “I turned my attention to carrying forth her message,” she said. “You don’t get to silence my kid and get away with it. I’m going to speak even louder.”