James Fields, Jr., the man who killed Heather Heyer when he plowed his vehicle into a group of counter-protestors at a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was found guilty of murder on Friday. Fields, 21, was convicted of first-degree murder and nine other charges for his role in the violent Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017, according to local station NBC12.
Fields drove his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring dozens and killing 32-year-old Heyers. In addition to the charge of murder, a jury of 12 individuals found him guilty on five counts of malicious wounding, three counts of aggravated malicious wounding, and one count of hit and run for failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving a death. The jury deliberated for seven hours before determining that Fields had deliberately smashed into a crowd of people.
Prosecutors argued that Fields drove into the crowd intentionally, pointing to several Instagram posts where Fields had posted images showing a car plowing into a crowd of protesters.
“Hatred fills his mind when he sees the counterprotesters, that group that was so clearly the Other [to him]. He’s presented with an opportunity. He takes his car from drive to reverse, then floors it. He seizes that opportunity to make his Instagram post a reality,” said Virginia Commonwealth attorney Nina-Alice Antony.
Charlottesville has released two Instagram posts James Fields made in May 2017 that will be part of the prosecution's case, one a private message and one a public post. They're both memes of protesters getting run over by cars. pic.twitter.com/wLAwgxRZnR
— Blake Montgomery ???? (@blakersdozen) November 30, 2018
Virginia prosecutors also pointed to audio recordings where Fields communicated with his mother from prison in 2017. During those calls, he said that Heyers’ mother was “anti-white supremacist” and referred to her as the enemy.
“She lost her daughter,” Fields’ mother said in response.
Fields replied that Heyer’s death “doesn’t f*****g matter,” and referred to her as “that one girl who died, or whatever.”
Fields’ attorney claimed that he had panicked when he accidentally drove into the people gathered at the protest. He claimed that he “feared for his safety” and was sorry that people had been injured. Prosecutors countered this with video showing Fields driving slowly toward the crowd, then reversing and getting speed to drive back into it.
Activists took to the streets of Charlottesville after news of the conviction broke.
Activists are marching through Charlottesville after James Fields was found guilty of the deadly car attack on Aug. 12, 2017.https://t.co/4zRj7PNdst
— The Daily Progress (@DailyProgress) December 7, 2018
Survivor Star Peterson spoke to the media at the event, saying that they would fight in Heyers memory “until the day we die.”
Survivor Star Peterson speaks to the media. pic.twitter.com/JeiMRGSqzf
— Allison Wrabel (@craftypanda) December 7, 2018
Fields faces 20 years in prison for the conviction, with sentencing to begin on Monday. Next year, he will face several charges of federal hate crimes.