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US Man Accused of Killing Woman at White Nationalist Rally to Argue Self-Defense


City workers place barricades around the court grounds during the first day of jury selection for the James Fields murder trial at Charlottesville Circuit Court in Charlottesville, Virginia, Nov. 26, 2018.

A U.S. man accused of driving into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white supremacist rally and killing a woman plans to argue in court that he was acting in self-defense.

A lawyer for 21-year-old James Fields gave a glimpse of the defense strategy Monday at the start of jury selection in Charlottesville, Virginia.

FILE - James Alex Fields Jr. is seen in a mugshot released by Charlottesville, Virginia, police department.
FILE - James Alex Fields Jr. is seen in a mugshot released by Charlottesville, Virginia, police department.

John Hill, the attorney for Fields, told a group of prospective jurors that the jury will hear evidence that Fields "thought he was acting in self-defense.''

Prosecutors have charged Fields with 10 counts, including first-degree murder, which could bring a lifetime prison sentence if he is convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Fields was among a group of white nationalists who, in August 2017, went to Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue honoring a general from the pro-slavery Confederacy that lost the country's Civil War.

Clashes broke out between neo-Nazi supporters and counterprotesters, and a car, allegedly driven by Fields, was slammed into a group on a street, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others.

The trial is expected to take about three weeks.

Fields' lawyers had asked to move the trial out of Charlottesville, saying it would not be possible to find residents in the city who would were unbiased. The judge did not grant the motion, but said the issue could be revisited if lawyers from both sides cannot find an impartial jury.

Fields also faces federal hate crimes charges in a separate trial. He pleaded not guilty to those charges during a July court appearance. No date has been set for that trial.