Late in the summer of 2017, during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va, then 20-year-old James A. Fields Jr., who had driven more than 500 miles from his home state of Ohio, sat in his Dodge Challenger near a crowd.
Fields, who was turned away by the Army after graduating high school two years earlier, hadn’t driven to Virginia to enroll at the nearby University of Virginia. He’d come to protest, not against the virulent racism and bigotry on display by the droves of white supremacists who’d beaten him to his destination, but, in his own way, alongside them.
Soon, he’d eclipse them all.
Eventually, Fields drove his 2010 Charger into a crowd of anti-white supremacist counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather D. Heyer and injuring 35 others.
Reeling, Americans decried the violence wrought by Fields’ budget sedan. Days later, the American people would watch Donald Trump try his best to spread his approval evenly between both white supremacists and counter-protesters alike.
Today, justice was served. Fields, convicted of first-degree murder will likely face life in prison, according to CNN.
After a trial in which Fields’ attorneys attempted to portray their client, who put his car in reverse before accelerating into a crowd of people, as more scared than angry, jurors found him guilty anyway. The same man who shared Hitler memes with the same mother he assaulted, had acted out of fear of the crowd and concern for his safety.
Prosecutor and Senior-Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina-Alice Antony showed jurors enough to seal a guilty verdict. While Fields’ attorneys placed Fields in the thick of a crowd, impairing his judgement and inducing his fear, Antony showed video footage which placed his Challenger a comfortable distance from nearby crowds. The defense, who promised witnesses to testify to Fields’ mental state, never made good on their word. Antony’s witnesses, who recounted pushing and pulling loved ones out of the impacted area and multiple broken bones, were plentiful.
While defense attorneys insisted their client was more scared than angry, Antony showed jurors a still of Fields’ face, taken from footage of the deadly act, to show the face of a man consumed by more rage than dread.
“This is not the face of someone who is scared,” Antony said. “This is the face of anger, of hatred. It’s the face of malice.”
Washington Post reporters Joe Heim and Kristine Phillips describe a courtroom filled with victims and their supporters. If justice has brought them any sort of joy, and if joy comes in the morning, their morning has yet to pass.
Fields, while convicted in his state trial, is yet to face his federal trial on hate crimes. If convicted, he faces death by lethal injection at the hands of the country he sought to claim as his own.