Virginia city hopes to heal after man's murder conviction

The Dodge Challenger allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr. moments after the rampage in Charlottesville Virginia

The defence said in their opening statements Fields had been "scared for his life" - hoping, according to observers, if not for an outright acquittal, that the jury might find him guilty of a lesser charge such as second-degree murder.

Defense attorney Denise Lunsford urged the jury to consider the chaos of the day, including the use of tear gas and a series of street fights between white nationalists, Antifa activists and counter-protesters.

A man who drove his auto into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville has been convicted of first-degree murder. His sentencing is expected to begin Monday, and he could be serving life in prison.

Fields, 21, ran over 32-year old Heyer with his auto at the 2017 "Unite the Right" alt-right rally in Charlottesville.

The jury delivered the verdict late Friday afternoon after deliberating for just under eight hours. Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, listened intently as the jury was polled about the verdict. The trial surfaced painful memories and emotions for many in this small city who were in the streets that day or have friends and acquaintances who were injured.

"I'm very happy with the verdict", she said outside the courthouse.

He said Friday that he had closely followed coverage of James Fields' trial and believes the OH man's self-defense arguments were "ludicrous".

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Earlier in the day, he was hit with something that could have been urine, she said.

"I saw Heather Heyer up in the air and remember thinking to myself, 'That's what someone's eyes look like when they are dead'". She said he believed a group of protesters behind him was about to swarm his auto, although no evidence was presented to support that. "He says he felt he was in danger, there were people coming at him". "The difference between a joyful crowd and an angry mob lies in the beholder".

Prosecutors countered that Field was motivated by hatred and had come to the rally to harm others.

Jeanne "Star" Peterson told the court she was fast on her feet till her right leg was run over by Fields's vehicle. In a taped phone call between Fields and his mother, which was recorded while he was in jail, Fields described Heyer's mother as "the enemy". He pointed to testimony that three months before the rally, Fields had posted a meme on Instagram depicting a vehicle hitting people.

"What we have is a man who had a decision, and he decides to turn his Instagram post into reality", the prosecutor said. Jurors in the trial of the man accused of killing a woman and injuring dozens at a white nationalist rally are expected to hear closing arguments in the case after testimony from final defense witnesses.

Prosecutors told the court that Fields attacked the protesters after he witnessed earlier clashes between them and other white nationalists earlier in the day.

In other parts of the country Confederate monuments have been taken down, some by protesters.

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