CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – A driver who rammed his car into a group of protesters during a white supremacist rally was simply trying to defend himself, his defense attorney said Thursday during opening arguments of his trial.
James Alex Fields Jr., who hit several people with his car, killing one of them, was "scared to death" after witnessing violent clashes between protesters and counter-protesters during a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, his lawyer claimed in court.
But prosecutors painted a different picture in court, alleging Fields carefully and methodically planned the attack and knew exactly what he was doing.
Heather Heyer, who was killed during the protest, was hit by Field’s car with full force – and afterward he put his car in reverse and sped away, prosecutors alleged.
“The case is about his decision to act on his anger,” prosecutors said.
Fields, who prosecutors say expressed white supremacist and anti-Semitic views, faces first-degree murder charges and his trial is expected to last three weeks.
In emotional testimony, a witness who was injured, Marcus Martin, described hearing the screech of tires that day. Martin, who was captured in a now-famous photo flying in the air after he was hit, was left with a broken leg and foot and required surgery.
“It was like a war zone downtown,” Martin said tearfully, while describing the scene.
Prosecutors are trying to make the case that Fields was not being threatened or blocked in any way when he attacked the protesters.
His defense attorney insists he acted in self-defense and has expressed remorse for the injuries and death his actions caused.