Alex Fields Jr, who drove his car into a crowd killing Heather Heyer, arraigned in court

Alex Fields Jr (in white shirt)
Alex Fields Jr (in white shirt)
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A man who drove his car into a crowd of protesters in Virginia, killing a woman, was motivated by “anger”, prosecutors said at the start of his trial.

Alex Fields Jr, 21, is accused of murder and causing serious injury in Charlottesville in August 2017.

Heather Heyer, 32, died when the car hit a group of people protesting against a white nationalist rally.

Mr Fields’s lawyers say he acted out of fear for his own safety.

In opening statements at the trial, the defence and prosecution both agreed that Mr Fields, from Ohio, had driven his car into the crowd but they disputed his intent.

What’s the background?

The white supremacist rally was one of the largest such gatherings in America in decades.

Dozens were injured in the violence that erupted between white nationalists and counter-protesters.

The “Unite the Right” march was organised to protest against plans to remove a statue of a general who had fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War.

Graphic video of the incident involving Mr Fields’s car was widely shared on social media.

What did the jury hear?

Prosecutor Nina Antony said that photographic and video evidence would show that Mr Fields’s actions were pre-meditated and not motivated by self-protection, as the defence would argue.

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She said that months before the incident, the reputed far-right sympathiser had posted pictures on Instagram showing a group of people being struck by a car.

“On August 12, James Alex Fields Jr was here in Charlottesville with anger and images of violence fixed in his mind. The case is about his decision to act on that anger and those images,” she said.

Among those who gave witness statements was Brendan Gilmore who said he had started filming on his mobile phone when he saw the car approach the crowd.

“I heard a sickening sound and saw bodies going everywhere,” he said.

Another witness was Marcus Martin who was photographed being thrown into the air by the force of the impact. He suffered a broken leg and ankle.

He described Heather Heyer as “a great person”.

Defence lawyer John Hill said the rally and counter-protest had descended into pitched battles with some people armed with guns.

He said that after his client was detained he had expressed remorse and told police that he “feared for his safety and that he was scared to death”.

The trial continues.

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