CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Jurors are set to deliberate for a third day 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 has deliberated for about 15 hours over two days. At one point on Monday, jurors indicated that they may be having trouble reaching a unanimous verdict on several allegations in the lawsuit brought by nine people who were physically hurt or emotionally traumatized by the violence.
Jurors are being asked to decide whether white supremacists, neo-Nazis and white nationalist organizations are responsible for violence during two days of protests. In addition to deciding whether the defendants are liable on six claims, jurors will also decide if the defendants are liable for compensatory and punitive damages for the people who were hurt.
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 also alluded to the Allen charge, a formal instruction given by judges to deadlocked juries to encourage jurors to continue deliberating until they reach a verdict. Moon said he thought it was too early to give the instruction to the jury.
Hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville on Aug. 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, the defendants attempted to distance themselves from Fields. Several defendants 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.