A jury says the man who murdered Heather Heyer and injured dozens of other people with his car should spend the rest of his life in prison.
Flanked by his attorneys, James Alex Fields Jr. stood with a flat expression as seven women and five men delivered their recommendation on Tuesday. A judge will now weigh their decision over the next several months.
Fields, 21, was found guilty last Friday on 10 charges after he traveled from his Ohio home to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and then consciously drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protesters after the on Aug. 12, 2017, rally was broken up by police.
After the jury recommended its sentence, Susan Bro, the mother of the woman killed by Fields, stood on the steps of the Charlottesville Circuit Court. With a shaky but clear voice, she pleaded for help in addressing hate and supporting social justice. She also said she plans to attend Fields’ upcoming federal hate crimes trial.
“The larger issue is, what do we do with hate in this country,” Bro asked. “If you make the choice [to hate], expect to deal with the consequences.”
The Heather Heyer Foundation, which Bro set up in her daughter’s memory, plans to award about 10 scholarships this year to college students pursuing social work or other degrees, Bro said.
Wednesday Bowie, a survivor of the attack, held back tears as she spoke about the defense’s explanation of Fields’ mental health on Monday. University of Virginia School of Medicine professor and psychologist Daniel Murrie had detailed Fields’ long history with mental illness and diagnoses of bipolar disorder and schizoid personality disorder.
“I have borderline personality disorder and I have never hurt anyone,” Bowie said. “Racism and allegiance to President Trump are not mental illnesses, they are choices.”
Survivors and activists then huddled together on the steps of the courthouse and embraced. Though the Charlottesville trial may be over, the fight against racism is ongoing, said activist Rosia Parker.
The jury reached its conclusions after four hours of deliberation over two days. Jurors recommended life in prison and a $100,000 fine for the first-degree murder conviction. On each of the five aggravated malicious wounding charges, jurors called for a 70-year sentence and a $70,000 fine. For the three malicious wounding convictions, Fields could spend 20 years in prison and pay $10,000 in fines. The hit-and-run conviction received a recommendation of nine years. In all, the jury recommended $480,000 in fines.
Judge Richard E. Moore accepted the jury’s verdicts and said he found them to be well-reasoned.
The defense also tried again to move the trial and have two jurors dismissed. Moore again struck down the motions.
Moore will formally sentence Fields on March 29. Though the jury’s sentence is not final, Moore can reduce or suspend the sentences, but he cannot exceed the jury’s recommendation.
Fields, who is being held at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, has a status hearing on Jan. 31. A date has not yet been set for the federal hate crimes trial.