Jurors Mull Fate for Ohio Man Convicted in "Unite the Right" Killing

A jury found James Alex Fields, Jr. guilty of first-degree murder for the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va. last year. He could face life in prison.

click to enlarge James Alex Fields Jr. - booking photo
booking photo
James Alex Fields Jr.

Jurors are now mulling a sentence for the Ohio man who drove through a crowd of anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Va. last year, killing one.

The same jurors Dec. 7 found 21-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., who once lived in Northern Kentucky and recently resided in Maumee, Ohio with his mother, guilty of murdering 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injuring as many as 35 others counter-protesting at the “Unite the Right” rally Aug. 12, 2017. Fields drove his Dodge Challenger into a large crowd of people protesting against white nationalist groups after authorities shut down the alt-right rally.

Prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony used a number of pieces of evidence to convince jurors that Fields had white nationalist sympathies and violent intent when he went to the rally, including memes Fields posted on Instagram three months prior to the rally showing a car plowing into a crowd of protesters.

“What we have is a man who had a decision, and he decides to turn his Instagram post into reality,” Antony said, according to the Associated Press.

But Fields’ attorneys argued that their client acted in self-defense because he was “scared to death” after driving into the middle of the protest. Attorney Denise Lunsford claimed that Fields saw two other cars surrounded by crowds further down the street, causing him to fear he was in danger.

“Look at the circumstances as they appeared to him,” Lunsford said. “He says he felt he was in danger, there were people coming at him.”

Jurors didn’t buy the self-defense claim, however, and found Fields guilty of first-degree murder for Heyer’s death and malicious wounding and aggravated malicious wounding for the injuries he caused. The panel could recommend a sentence between 20 years and life in prison for Fields, who also faces a potential death sentence under a separate federal hate crime charge.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the CityBeat Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.