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Charlottesville Suspect's Legal Team Hints at Self-Defense

Jury selection underway in trial of James Fields
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2018 8:26 AM CST
In this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, file photo, James Alex Fields Jr., left, holds a black shield in Charlottesville, Va., during the Unite the Right rally. He is accused of driving his car into a crowd...   (Alan Goffinski via AP, File)

(Newser) – It looks like the man accused of deliberately ramming his car into a crowd of people in Charlottesville will try to sway jurors with a self-defense strategy. Lawyers for James Fields suggested as much Monday as jury selection got underway in the closely watched murder trial in Virginia, reports C-ville. For one thing, attorney John Hill asked potential jurors their views on whether violence could be justified in cases of self-defense, reports the Daily Progress, which notes that University of North Carolina professor Dwayne Dixon is on the witness list. Dixon is affiliated with the Antifa movement, and he has publicly talked about seeing Fields on the block he was patrolling shortly before the crash.

In a speech at Harvard, Dixon said Fields "paused right in front of me, and I waved him off with my rifle," per IndyWeek. Far-right conspiracy theorists have used Dixon's comments to make the case that Fields was fleeing when he drove into the crowd, per the Daily Progress. Prosecutors plans to show jurors video showing that Fields backed up, then accelerated into the counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Also on the witness list: an officer, one who normally worked as a school resource officer, who left her position before the crash because she feared for her personal safety. The trial is expected to last three weeks, though jury selection could take days. (Read more James Alex Fields Jr. stories.)

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