Jury Recommends Life Sentence for White Nationalist Who Drove Into Va. Crowd

Fields is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of separate federal hate crime charges

Jurors in the trial of a man convicted of murder for driving his car into counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally have recommended that he spend the rest of his life behind bars.

After two days of deliberation, the jury decided that James Alex Fields Jr. should serve life in prison for the death of Heather Heyer and an additional 419 years for the other nine charges he was convicted of last week.

Fields showed no emotion as he learned the jury's recommendation.

“I don’t hate him, but my God, the kid’s messed up,” Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, said after the jury made its recommendation.

A judge will decide on March 29 whether to impose the jury's recommendation or reduce it.

"Hopefully the outcome achieved today is Charlottesville's small part in rejecting and holding accountable those whose violent acts against others are fueled by hatred," Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Joe Platania said.

A victim from Northern Virginia who testified in the trial and wants to protect her identity from white supremacists called Fields a terrorist.

“These are terrorists,” she said. “I know that everybody is reluctant to call them that, I think because they’re white, but al-Qaida used plans as a weapon and he used a car as a weapon.”

Fields rammed his car into a crowd in Charlottesville during a "Unite the Right" rally on Aug. 12, 2017. Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, was killed and dozens more were injured.

"In the end, the hands of justice say he needs to be kept away from society for a while, so I'm content with that," Bro said.

On Monday, she testified about the impact of her daughter's death.

She told jurors that her daughter's death has been "an explosion in our family" and "we are forever scarred by the pain."

"Some days I can't do anything but cry and sit and stare as the grief overtakes me," she said.

Several people who were severely injured by Fields described devastating physical and psychological effects during sentencing Monday.

Jeanne "Star" Peterson said 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.

A psychologist testifying for the defense said Fields has a long history of mental health issues, including bipolar disorder.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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