03:26 GMT25 February 2021
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    James Alex Fields, the Ohio native accused by the US Justice Department of ramming his car through a crowd of demonstrators, saw his first day in court Monday over the attack, which left one woman dead in August 2017.

    Fields' attorney John Hill told potential jurors on Monday that they will hear evidence that Fields acted in self-defense, asking them to say whether they ever believe violence is acceptable to use in self-defense.

    Fields has long been predicted to make such an argument, as numerous conspiracy theories have surrounded the event, including claims that counter-protesters struck his car with a bat and threatened him with a gun. Numerous witness accounts and videos refute those claims, however.

    Fields could face life in prison or even the death penalty if convicted of his charges. In Virginia, he faces one count of second-degree murder, five counts of malicious wounding, three counts of aggravated malicious wounding and one count of hit and run.

    Fields also faces 28 counts of hate crime acts causing bodily injuring and involving an attempt to kill, one count of racially motivated violent interference with a federally protected activity and one count of a hate crime act resulting in the death of Heather Heyer. 

    The potential for Fields to be handed down the death penalty stems from his federal charges. The related trial is set to begin after his state trial. The maximum punishment Fields could receive if convicted of the state-level charges is life in prison.

    Following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Fields was idling in his car before allegedly plowing through the non-violent crowd, injuring around two dozen people and killing anti-racist activist Heather Heyer. Both Virginia authorities and Department of Justice officials have indicted Fields for being behind the attack. He was arrested before he was able to leave Virginia.

    Fields used social media to express "support of the social and racial policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi-era Germany, including the Holocaust" and other racist views, according to the Justice Department indictment. The day prior to the attack, Fields also allegedly sent his family memes featuring Adolf Hitler and alluding to violence against leftists.


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