Prosecutors and defense lawyers in Charlottesville are working to select the jury that will hear the case against James Alex Fields, the White Supremacist who is facing a slew of state charges for ramming his car into a diverse crowd during the infamous neo-nazi rally that occured in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
Fields faces one count of first-degree murder for killing counter-protester Heather Heyer, in addition to eight other criminal counts relating to injuries and fleeing the scene.
This is only a state trial, and does not include the 30 federal charges that he faces relating to hate crimes – one of which is eligible for the death penalty.
Fields, 21, pleaded not guilty to the federal charges in August.
The Charlottesville Circuit Court has until Wednesday to finish jury selection, and the trial can begin soon after, according to city spokesman Brian Wheeler.
According to The Daily Progress, a local Charlottesville newspaper, there are 360 citizens in the pool of possible jurors – the largest in recent memory.
When federal charges were announced against Fields, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the indictments “should send a clear message to every would-be criminal in America that we aggressively prosecute violent crimes of hate that threaten the core principles of our nation.”
According to federal court filings made by U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen, Fields had social media accounts in which he “expressed and promoted his belief that white people are superior to other races and peoples; expressed support of the social and racial policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi-era Germany, including the Holocaust, and espoused violence against African Americans, Jewish people and members of other racial, ethnic and Religious groups he perceived to be non-white.”
According to the indictment unsealed in June, Fields drove from his Ohio home to attend the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which white supremacist leaders attended, and joined in “chants promoting or expressing white supremacist and other anti-Semitic and racist views.”
The indictment adds the following: “After local authorities declared the rally an “unlawful assembly” and dispersed participants, Fields returned to his car and drove to where the counter-demonstration was occuring. Protesters were chanting and carrying signs promoting equality and denouncing racial discrimination. With no vehicle behind him, Fields slowly reversed his vehicle to the top of a hill.”