The Ohio man who has been charged with the murder of a woman during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, is expected to argue that when he drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters it was an act of self-defense, according to a report from Business Insider.
The attorney for James Alex Fields Jr. gave a preview of the strategy that he will seek to employ in his client’s defense on Monday in Charlottesville as the jury selection for Fields Jr.’s trial began.
John Hill, the lawyer of Fields Jr., revealed that there will be evidence that the Ohio man “thought he was acting in self-defense” when he spoke to the prospective jurors on Monday. Hill also asked whether they believed that using any type of violence as a means of self-defense was never appropriate.
When prospective jurors were asked if they had read or heard about the case, almost all of the 68 in attendance said they had. Of those, 20 revealed that they had an opinion formed in regard to the case, but none raised their hand when asked whether their opinion would prevent them from deciding the case based purely on evidence.
On August 12, 2017, the “Unite the Right” rally drew hundreds of those who identified as white nationalists to the small Virginia town of Charlottesville, where local officials were seeking to remove a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The event also brought out hundreds of counter-protesters who opposed the politics of the rally.
Before the rally officially began, brawls kicked off between the two opposing groups, which along with fists saw the use of smoke bombs and chemical spray. The most violent incident was when a car that authorities say was driven by Fields Jr. drove through a group of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Prior to the incident, Fields Jr. was captured in a photograph holding a shield that bore the symbol of Vanguard America, one of the groups that attended the “Unite the Right” rally, although the group denied that they had any association with him, according to a report by the Washington Post.
President Donald Trump saw himself embroiled in controversy due to his comments in the aftermath of the event, saying that “many sides” were to blame for the incident. Critics pointed to the comments as a refusal by Trump to condemn far-right extremists, according to a report by The Guardian.