Charlottesville Jury Recommends 419 Years Plus Life For Neo-Nazi Who Killed Protester After two days of deliberation, jurors said James Alex Fields Jr. should spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering Heather Heyer and injuring 35 others at the Unite the Right rally last year.


Charlottesville Jury Recommends 419 Years Plus Life For Neo-Nazi Who Killed Protester

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A Virginian jury has recommended life in prison plus 419 years for James Alex Fields Jr. He's the man who drove his car into a crowd of people last year in Charlottesville who had been protesting against white nationalism. Fields killed one woman, Heather Heyer, and injured dozens more. He was convicted Friday of first-degree murder among other charges. Whittney Evans of member station WCVE has the latest.

WHITTNEY EVANS, BYLINE: In August of last year, Fields drove 8 1/2 hours from his hometown of Maumee, Ohio, to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. That rally was called to protest the planned removal of Confederate statues. It drew both far-right activists who espouse white supremacist views and counter-protesters who rallied against what they saw as blatant racism. Included in that group was Heather Heyer. Fields was photographed marching with members of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America. Prosecuting Attorney Joe Platania said the trial and sentence are a long time coming for victims and their families.


JOE PLATANIA: We are unable to heal their physical injuries or bring Heather back, but we are hopeful that they're able to take some measure of comfort and solace from these convictions and sentences.

EVANS: Susan Bro is Heather Heyer's mother.


SUSAN BRO: I don't hate him, but my God, the kid's messed up. He needs help. Put him away. I'm sorry. He should not be out to society, and I think the jury could see that. He destroyed more than just my family. He destroyed his family as well.

EVANS: Both sides in the case agreed during the two-week-long trial that Fields was behind the wheel of his Dodge Challenger when it barreled down a narrow city street at 28 miles per hour toward the crowd. Prosecutors called his actions premeditated, saying they were fueled by his extreme political and racist beliefs. The defense, though, argued the 21-year-old was frightened and panicked after a tense afternoon of violent clashes between protesters on opposite sides.

A forensic expert testified yesterday that James Fields did not meet the legal definition of insanity, though he did suffer from a lifelong battle with bipolar disorder. A judge will accept or reject the jury's recommendation at a sentencing hearing next March. Separately, Fields has been indicted on numerous federal hate crime charges. If found guilty, those could result in a death sentence. For NPR News, I'm Whittney Evans in Charlottesville.

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