USA

Man who ran over Charlottesville protester guilty of murder

A man who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville has been convicted of first-degree murder.

James Alex Fields Jr's claim that he acted in self-defence was rejected by a jury on Friday.

The 21-year-old from Maumee, Ohio, showed no emotion as the guilty verdict was read out.

Jurors convicted Fields of eight other charges, including aggravated malicious wounding and hit and run.

Image: The silver Dodge Charger driven by James Alex Fields Jr in Charlottesville

Fields, who drove from Ohio to Virginia to support white nationalist protesters, faces up to life in prison at sentencing on Monday.

He is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of separate hate crime charges.

Hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis and other white nationalists had streamed into the college town of Charlottesville for one of the largest gatherings of white supremacists in a decade.

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist was killed and 19 were injured on 12 August 2017.

The trial featured emotional evidence from survivors who described devastating injuries and long, complicated recoveries.

Prosecutors claimed during his trial that Fields drove his car directly into the crowd at the "Unite the Right" rally.

They said he had become angry after witnessing violent clashes between far-right and opposing demonstrators.

Fields' lawyers claimed he had fear for his life after witnessing the scenes and acted in self-defence.

One of Fields' former teachers said he was known in high school for being fascinated with Nazism and idolising Adolf Hitler.

Jurors were shown a text message he sent to his mother days before the rally that included an image of the wartime German dictator.

When his mother pleaded with him to be careful, he replied: "We're not the one (sic) who need to be careful."

Prosecutors also showed jurors a meme Fields posted on Instagram three months before the rally in which bodies are shown being thrown into the air after a car hits a crowd of people identified as protesters.

He posted the meme publicly to his Instagram page and sent a similar image as a private message to a friend in May 2017.

A video of Fields being interrogated after the crash showed him sobbing and hyperventilating after he was told a woman had died and others were seriously injured.
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The Charlottesville rally had been organised to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

US President Donald Trump was accused of inflaming racial tensions after the protest when he said "both sides" were to blame.

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The comment was seen by some as a refusal to condemn racism.

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