Jury debates sentencing for James Fields Jr. in Charlottesville
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - The Latest on the sentencing of James Alex Fields Jr. for the murder of Heather Heyer (all times local):
A jury has begun deliberating the punishment for a man who killed a woman and injured dozens when he drove his car into counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia last year.
James Alex Fields Jr. was convicted last week of first-degree murder and nine other charges for plowing into a crowd of counterprotesters during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.
A 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist, Heather Heyer, was killed and nearly three dozen other counterprotesters were hurt.
A jury began deliberating Fields' sentence about 3:15 p.m. Monday after hearing testimony from Heyer's mother and several people who were injured. Fields' lawyers called a psychologist who said Fields had a long history of mental health issues, but was not legally insane when he struck the crowd with his car.
A psychologist has testified that a man who drove his car into counterprotesters at a 2017 white nationalist rally has a long history of mental health issues.
Daniel Murrie is a psychologist and professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He told jurors Monday that James Alex Fields Jr. had inexplicable volatile outbursts as a young child and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 6. He was later diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder.
Murrie testified for the defense as jurors were asked to come up with a sentencing recommendation for Fields. He faces up to life in prison after the jury convicted him Friday of first-degree murder and other charges. Murrie said Fields went off his psychiatric medication at age 18 and built an isolated “lifestyle centered around being alone.”
Several people who were severely injured by a man who drove his car into counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally have described devastating physical and psychological injuries to jurors who make a sentencing recommendation.
James Alex Fields Jr. was convicted on Friday of first-degree murder and other charges for ramming his car into a crowd in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. One woman was killed and dozens were injured.
On Monday, Jeanne “Star” Peterson told the jury her life has been “a living nightmare” since she was hit by Fields’ car. Her right leg was shattered, and she’s had five surgeries to try to repair it. She also suffered a broken spine and still hasn’t been able to return to work. Wednesday Bowie said Fields tried to destroy a community that day. She told the jury “the world is not a safe place” with Fields in it. Fields’ lawyers were scheduled to present their own witnesses during the sentencing hearing Monday afternoon.
The mother of the woman killed when James Alex Fields Jr. drove into a crowd after a white nationalist rally says what he did can’t silence her daughter’s love or her sense of fairness and justice.
Susan Bro gave emotional testimony Monday to jurors who must recommend a sentence for Fields, who faces 20 years to life after being convicted of murder and other crimes. Heather Heyer was a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist. Bro said her death was like an “explosion” in her family. She said Fields tried to “silence” her daughter with his car, and said: “I refuse to allow that.”
Jurors heard a recorded phone call Fields made to his mother from jail, in which he dismissed Bro’s pain at losing her daughter and called her “the enemy.”
A man convicted of first-degree murder for driving his car into counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia faces 20 years to life in prison as jurors reconvene to consider his punishment.
The panel that convicted James Alex Fields Jr. will hear more evidence Monday and then recommend a sentence to Judge Richard Moore.
Fields was convicted Friday of killing Heather Heyer during last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, organized to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The 21-year-old Fields of Maumee, Ohio, also was found guilty of injuring dozens of others by driving into a crowd of people who were marching peacefully after the rally.
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