What the jury is debating in the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ civil trial

Virginia Elections

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. (WRIC) — The jury responsible for deciding if two dozen white nationalists, neo-Nazis and white supremacist organizations are financially liable for violence that occurred during the 2017 Unite the Right riot continued deliberating on Monday. 

Deliberations first began on Friday after closing arguments took place Thursday. The jury is tasked to decide on six different claims, each relating to physical and emotional injuries, in addition to alleged civil rights violations and racially-motivated harassment throughout the violent day. 

Nine plaintiffs and their attorneys are behind the lawsuit. Several of the plaintiffs argue that they are still suffering physical and emotional distress, now more than four years later.

Claims one through three are conspiracy related. The first claim, for example, asks the jury yes or no: “Did Plaintiffs prove by a preponderance of the evidence their claim that one or more Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence in violation of 42 U.S., 1985(3)?” That U.S. code relates to conspiracy of interfering with ones’ civil rights. If the jury answers yes, they must decide which, if any, of 17 defendants are responsible. James Fields, serving a life sentence for hitting and killing Heather Heyer with his car, is one of the defendants listed under that claim and several others. 

The fourth claim deals with “racial, religious, or ethnic harassment or violence.” Claims five and six accuse James Fields only, and deal with “intentional infliction of emotional distress” as well as assault and battery. 

During deliberations Monday, the jury asked several questions. According to the judge, the jury asked “are words a form of violence?” After back-and-forth with attorneys on both sides, the judge told the jury to review jury instruction #30, which outlines the First Amendment. 

Later, the judge said the jury asked, “if we cannot come to a unanimous decision on the first three claims, do we still decide on claims four, five, and six?” The judge said he would tell the jury to still try and come to a unanimous decision on all six of the claims. 

At 4:45 p.m. on Monday the judge said the jury had been dismissed for the day. It is unclear when the trial will resume. There was no verdict reached on the six claims.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

More Trending Stories