'Something I Can Do for Heather': A Huge Trial Starts

James Alex Fields accused of driving his car into Charlottesville counterprotesters
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2018 9:25 AM CST
'Something I Can Do for Heather': A Huge Trial Starts
A car plows into a crowd in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.   (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP, File)

Small town, big trial: Jury selection got underway Monday in the trial of a man accused of deliberately ramming his car into a crowd of people protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year. James Alex Fields, 21, faces charges including first-degree murder for the incident on Aug. 12, 2017, that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and many others injured. Details:

  • The pool: Fields' attorney pushed unsuccessfully to have the trial moved outside of Charlottesville, arguing that it will be impossible to find impartial jurors, reports the Daily Progress. The judge disagreed. The pool of potential jurors is 360 people, and it's expected to take until midweek to settle on a panel.
  • A witness: "He broke both of my legs, two parts of my spine, and one rib, and then [I] also had a pretty big laceration that had to be sewn up," Star Peterson tells NPR. She plans to testify. "It's something I can do for Heather," she tells the AP. "If I can be part of prosecuting the person who killed her, then that's something I can do for her memory."

  • About Fields: In his Kentucky high school, Fields idolized Adolf Hitler and held anti-Semitic and racist views, former teacher Derek Weimer told the Washington Post after his arrest. Fields also told Weimer that the Army had rejected him on psychiatric grounds. Fields had been working as a security guard before his arrest and living in Maumee, Ohio.
  • The crash: In pretrial hearings, prosecutors showed video of Fields' car slowly moving toward the protesters before going into reverse and then speeding forward again toward the crowd, per the AP.
  • Sobbing: Fields was photographed earlier that day carrying a shield with the emblem of the hate group Vanguard America, though the group denies any affiliation with him. As Fields was being detained, a detective said he began sobbing and said he was sorry when told a woman had been killed.
  • The background: The Guardian has more on the incident, including criticism that police were unprepared for the Unite the Right rally and counter-rally, and President Trump's subsequent blame of "both sides" for the violence.
  • On the rise: An analysis by the Washington Post finds dozens of acts of violence over the last decade in the US committed by white supremacists and others on the far right, far more than any other group in the "domestic extremist" category.
  • Federal charges: Fields faces separate federal hate-crime charges that could result in the death penalty. His federal trial has not been scheduled.
(Fields was recently attacked in jail.)

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