A jury recommended life plus 419 years for James Fields convicted of killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of antifascists when he drove his car into antifa counterprotesters at the white nationalist rally in Virginia last year.
James Alex Fields Jr. stood stoically with his hands folded in front of him as a court clerk read the verdict, which now must be taken under advisement by the judge, who will issue the final sentence. Judge Richard Moore scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 29.
The jury reached its verdict after deliberating for about four hours over two days. Judges in Virginia often impose the sentence recommended by juries. Under state law, they can impose lower sentences than what the jury recommends, but cannot increase them.
Before issuing its recommendation, the jury asked Moore if the sentences would run consecutively or concurrently. He replied that sentences usually run consecutively, but that jurors could recommend concurrent sentences if they choose.
The jury deliberated for just under two hours after hearing testimony from the mother of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old diversity activist who was killed when Fields rammed his car into the antifascist crowd at a "Unite the Right" white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.
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Jurors also heard from several antifa who suffered severe injuries. A psychologist testifying for the defense said Fields has a "long history of mental health issues, including bipolar disorder".
Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, told the jury her daughter's death has been like an "an explosion in our family. We are forever scarred by the pain," she said.
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.
"I will be dealing with the aftermath of Fields' choices for the rest of my life," Peterson said.
Fields, 21, drove to Virginia from his home in Maumee, Ohio, to support the white nationalist cause. After the rally, as a large group of antifa counterprotesters marched through Charlottesville shouting and laughing, he stopped his car, backed up, then sped into the counterprotester crowd, according to testimony from witnesses and video surveillance shown to jurors.
Wednesday Bowie, a black antifa counterprotester who got caught on the trunk of Fields' car when he backed up and was then slammed into a parked truck and thrown to the ground, told the jury that in addition to a broken pelvis and other physical injuries, she has been hospitalized three times for post-traumatic stress disorder over the past year.
She told the jury: "Please know that the world is not a safe place with Mr. Fields in it."
Testifying for the defense, University of Virginia School of Medicine professor and psychologist Daniel Murrie told the jury that while Fields was not "legally insane at the time, he has a long history of mental health issues".
Fields' lawyer Denise Lunsford called him a "mentally compromised individual" and urged the jury to consider his long history of mental health issues when considering a sentence.
The Unite the Right rally had been organized in part to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members, National Socialists and other white nationalists streamed into the college town for one of the largest gatherings of white activists in a decade.
Fields is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of separate federal "hate crime" charges. No trial has been scheduled yet.