Jury to begin third day of deliberations in Unite the Right civil trial

22November 2021

On Monday the 12-member panel asked US District Judge Norman Moon whether they need to be unanimous on each of the final three counts if they cannot reach a unanimous decision on first three counts, which related to conspiracy claims.

Two of the counts — five and six — are related just to actions by James Alex Fields Jr., who sped his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one person and injuring dozens. The other involves a statute on racial, religious or ethnic harassment or violence.

Without the jury present, the judge said, “I don’t know why there’s any misunderstanding about that. I think I’m going to tell them they must continue to try to reach a unanimous decision on all six counts.”

The jury will decide in each count whether each defendant is liable for damages. In a civil trial, plaintiffs’ attorneys have to show a defendant is liable by a “preponderance of evidence,” Moon told jurors, meaning 50.1% or greater chance of the claim is true.

Among other questions the jury has asked was one about whether words also mean violence. Attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants debated the issue without the jury present, with defense attorneys arguing words are protected by the First Amendment.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys suggested referring the panel back to jury instructions.

Monday was the second day of jury deliberations and concluded around 5 p.m. ET. Court resumes Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Planned removal of statue sparked the rally

The Unite the Right rally was held over on August 11 and 12, 2017, to oppose the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. As the violence unfolded, it reached a tipping point when Fields — who was protesting the statue’s removal — drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Fourteen people and 10 White supremacist and nationalist organizations were listed as defendants in the civil lawsuit.

The Unite the Right trial is exposing the chasm between who plans White nationalism's battles and who does the fighting

The plaintiffs, who include town residents and counterprotesters injured in clashes, are seeking compensatory and statutory damages for the physical and emotional injuries they suffered due to the violence at the rally. They also contend rally organizers engaged in a conspiracy and planned the violence to ignite a race and religious war.

Defense attorneys and two high-profile defendants who are representing themselves argued none of the plaintiffs had proven the defendants had organized racial violence.

Closing arguments concluded Thursday. The jurors got 77 pages of final instructions and verdict forms Friday morning and started deliberating.
Here's a look back on what led to the Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' civil trial

To succeed on the primary conspiracy claim, the plaintiffs must prove the existence of a conspiracy involving two or more people, according to instructions given to the jurors.

Also, plaintiffs must prove the conspiracy was partially motivated by “animus” toward Black or Jewish people or because the plaintiffs supported those communities and that such conspiracy aimed to deprive them of their right to be free from racially motivated violence, the jury instructions say.

Finally, the plaintiffs must prove at least one person in the conspiracy “took an overt act” in continuing the racial violence and the plaintiffs were injured because of that act, according to the instructions.

The plaintiffs who were hit by Fields’ car are seeking $7 million to $10 million in compensatory damages while others are asking for $3 million to $5 million, according to one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, Roberta Kaplan.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys say defendants were looking to fight

4 cases converge to test American justice

A large team of powerful lawyers under the umbrella of the nonprofit Integrity First for America are representing the plaintiffs in their civil case.

In closing arguments, attorneys representing the plaintiffs told the jury that the defendants prepared for the “Battle of Charlottesville” and messages sent between them and their actions after the violence were proof of a conspiracy.

The lawyers showed texts, messages on the online platform called Discord, and even Facebook Messenger, to show how organizers not only wanted counterprotesters, who they referred to as antifa or communists, to show up, but they were looking forward to a brawl. Organizers wanted the fight so much, they even tried trolling counter-demonstrators in hopes they would throw the first punch, the attorneys said.

Defense says no proof of conspiracy

Defense attorneys and two high-profile defendants who are representing themselves countered that none of the plaintiffs had proven the defendants had organized racial violence.

“Plaintiffs have to prove an agreement. An agreement isn’t a virus that can be passed around at a rally,” said attorney Bryan Jones, who represents three defendants.

The defendants have spent the entire trial making the argument that not only do they not know each other, but that they were just taking security measures in case they were attacked antifa. Defendants also made the claim that their hate speech is nothing more than off-color jokes that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

CNN’s Mark Morales reported from Charlottesville and Steve Almasy reported and wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Aya Elamroussi and Amir Vera contributed to this report.

This post was originally published on this site

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