Jury selection began on Monday at the trial of the man accused of murdering a girl by driving his car into a bunch of counterprotesters following a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a year ago.
James Fields Jr., a 21-year-old Ohio resident, faces 10 criminal counts in Virginia, such as first-degree murder and malicious attack. He’s pleaded not guilty to the charges, which could send him to jail for the remainder of his life.
Fields was among tens of thousands of white nationalists who converged on the city, home of the University of Virginia, to protest plans to get rid of a statue of a Confederate war hero out of a neighborhood park.
The French demonstrations, emphasized by a march across campus by guys carrying flaming torches and chanting anti-Semitic and racist slogans, motivated clashes with counterprotesters. Later, Fields plowed his car into counterprotesters, murdering 32-year-old Heather Hayes and injuring dozens of others, prosecutors say. One of his lawyers, John Hill, told prospective jurors the defense could present testimony revealing the defendant believed he was behaving in self-defense. Hill also advised them to anticipate health and mental-health testimony.
Federal prosecutors have stated that Fields routinely encouraged racial ideologies on his social networking accounts and voiced support for Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust. Following the rally, U.S. President Donald Trump faced intense criticism when he appeared to emphasise the white nationalists together with the counter-protesters, stating that there were”very handsome people on each side.”
On Monday, Fields seemed calm after inputting a heavily guarded Charlottesville Circuit Courtroom sporting a dark match, dark-rimmed eyeglasses along with also a striped tie. As jury selection began, he turned toward the crowd in the court.
Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Moore advised that a large group of potential jurors the trial could last up to fourteen days.
Back in June the U.S. Department of Justice said that it had been also indicting Fields about 30 national hate crimes charges, for which he might face the death penalty if convicted. Fields also pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.