Closing arguments expected in white nationalist trial

Closing arguments are expected Thursday in Charlottesville Circuit Court in the murder trial of James Alex Fields

Closing arguments are expected Thursday in Charlottesville Circuit Court in the murder trial of James Alex Fields

The man charged with killing Heather Heyer and injuring many others when he rammed his auto into a crowd at an August 12, 2017, white supremacist rally also faces being convicted of five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit and run.

The witness, Joshua Matthews, testified about the moments before Fields plowed into the counterprotesters during the August 12, 2017, rally, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring more than a dozen others. The jury chose to begin deliberations Friday morning. The police action followed violent clashes between the white nationalists who descended on Charlottesville to protest plans to remove a statute of the Confederate general Robert E Lee and counter-demonstrators who showed up to oppose the white nationalists.

Closing arguments for each side came back to the established central question of the case: What was in Fields' mind when he drove into the crowd on 4th Street?

He was said to have had a text conversation with his mother in the days leading up to the rally. Fields wrote: "We're not the one (sic) who need to be careful", accompanied by Hitler's image.

Antony pointed to an Instagram post that Fields shared three months before the rally of a meme depicting a auto driving into a crowd of "protesters".

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The man who crashed into a crowd of protesters at the Charlottesville rally, reportedly referred to the victim's mother as a recorded jailhouse phone call as a "communist" and 'one of those anti-white supremacists'.

Demonstrators chanted racist statements, carried antisemitic placards and held torches during the "Unite the Right" rally, which was organised by white nationalist Jason Kessler.

Fields has also been indicted on federal hate crime charges, which carry the possibility of the death penalty.

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"What we have is a man who had a decision, and he decides to turn his Instagram post into reality", she said.

In her closing argument, defense lawyer Denise Lunsford described the incident as the result of a "perfect storm" of events over which Fields had no control, sending him into a panic.

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Asking the jury to find her client not guilty of all charges, Lunsford said when he was arrested, Fields told police, "I'm sorry I didn't want to hurt anyone". She said he saw a large crowd down the street surrounding two other cars and feared he would be attacked.

Lunsford said that if people were in the park during the rally, then people assumed that they were extreme right wing conservatives.

Antony told the jury no one was near Fields' auto when he drove into the crowd.

Twenty minutes later, Fields plowed into the crowd. She said that some people had no idea what they were walking into. In addition to murder, Fields faces five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding and a count of leaving the scene of an accident. In addition to Heyer's murder, he is charged with eight counts of malicious wounding and one count of failing to stop after the fatal crash. Fields did not testify in his own defense.

People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. After police declared an "unlawful assembly", Fields, Matthews and two other people chose to walk together "as it would probably be more safe", Matthews said.

Prosecutors called a Charlottesville police detective as a rebuttal witness in an attempt to cast doubt on the testimony of a member of a left-wing defense group who said he scared away a man driving a "gray muscle car" repeatedly circling a park where counterprotesters had gathered.

Thursday morning, University of North Carolina assistant professor Dwayne Dixon testified for the defense.

Heather Heyer, who was killed when Fields drove his auto into the crowd.

He said he saw a gray muscle vehicle drive around the area of Market Street three times between 12:30 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. on the afternoon of August 12, 2017.

As the Challenger drove by, Dixon said he stepped off the curb, between two cars, and yelled, "Get the (expletive) out of here".

On Wednesday, fellow protesters testified that Fields asked them to lunch shortly before ramming his vehicle into a throng of people. He has claimed previously that he used his gun to scare off a man he believes was Fields.

Dixon said he believes that was about 30 minutes to an hour before the auto surged into the crowd.

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