James Alex Fields Jr. was found guilty of first-degree murder and nine other charges on Friday, 16 months after he drove into a group of people protesting against the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017 — injuring dozens of people and killing a young woman named Heather Heyer.
Fields was also found guilty of five counts of malicious wounding, three counts of aggravated malicious wounding, and one count of failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving a death.
During the trial, the focus for both the prosecution and the defense was on Fields’s intent, not whether or not he drove his car into a crowd. As reported by BuzzFeed News’s Blake Montgomery, to prove that Fields intended to commit violence that day in Charlottesville, prosecutors showed the jury Fields’s social media postings, which included memes about protesters getting run over by cars.
Virginia Commonwealth attorney Nina-Alice Antony said in her closing statement, “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.”
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
Prosecutors also used recordings of Fields’s jailhouse conversations with his mother from December 2017, in which he described Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, as an “anti-white supremacist.” When his mother responded, “She lost her daughter,” Fields, who described Heather as “that one girl who died, or whatever,” said that Heyer’s death “doesn’t fucking matter.”
Fields will be sentenced on Monday and faces life in prison. He will also go on trial for federal hate crimes charges in 2019.