A jury begins its third day of deliberations in the trial of white nationalists accused in a lawsuit of promoting and then carrying out racially motivated violence during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
The jury deliberated for more than 15 hours on Friday and Monday. At one point Monday, jurors indicated they may be having trouble reaching a unanimous verdict on several allegations brought in the lawsuit by nine people physically hurt or emotionally traumatized by the violence. Jurors are being asked to decide if white nationalists are responsible for the violence and if the defendants are liable for damages.
The jury sent a note to Judge Norman Moon around midday Monday asking: “If we cannot come to a unanimous decision on the first three claims, do we still decide on Claims 4, 5 and 6?”
Moon told lawyers for the plaintiffs and the defendants that he would tell the jury to continue to try to come to a unanimous verdict. He said he thought it was too early to employ the Allen charge, a formal instruction given to deadlocked jurors to encourage them to continue deliberating until reaching a verdict.
Hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville on August 11-12, 2017, ostensibly to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
During a march on the University of Virginia grounds, white nationalists surrounded counterprotesters, shouted, “Jews will not replace us!” and threw burning tiki torches at them. The next day, an avowed admirer of Adolf Hitler intentionally drove his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19.
James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, is serving life in prison for murder and hate crimes for the car attack. He is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
During the trial for the lawsuit, the defendants attempted to distance themselves from Fields. Several testified that they resorted to violence only after they or their associates were attacked.
The lawsuit is being funded by Integrity First for America, a nonprofit civil rights organization.