Charlottesville Rally Jury Ask Judge What to Do If They Can't Reach Unanimous Decision

The Charlottesville jury has asked the judge what to do if they are unable to reach a unanimous decision, indicating they are having difficulty reaching a verdict in the trial of the "Unite the Right" rally in 2017.

The jurors in the U.S. District Court on Monday are being asked to decide whether white supremacists, white nationalist organizations and neo-Nazis are responsible for violence during the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in 2017. During the second day of deliberations on Monday, the jury asked Judge Norman Moon, "If we cannot come to a unanimous decision on the first three claims, do we still decide on Claims 4, 5 and 6?"

The jury is also being asked to decide whether the defendants are liable on six claims and if they are liable for compensatory and punitive damages for nine people who filed a federal lawsuit after they suffered physical or psychological injuries from the events.

The events took place in Charlottesville on August 11-12, 2017, to protest the city's plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. During a march at the University of Virginia, white nationalists surrounded counterprotesters, shouted "Jews will not replace us!" and threw burning tiki torches at them. The deadly events also included a declared admirer of Adolf Hitler intentionally driving his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Jury seats in court
The Charlottesville jury has asked the judge what to do if they are unable to reach a unanimous decision, indicating they are having difficulty reaching a verdict in the trial of the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017. Above, the witness stand (L) and judge's bench (TOP R) as seen from the juror seats in the courtroom at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Joshua Gates Weisberg-Pool/Getty Images

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. The instruction is often colloquially referred to as a "dynamite" charge. Moon said he thought it was too early to give the instruction to the jury.

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.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs are relying in part on a 150-year-old law passed after the Civil War to shield freed slaves from violence and protect their civil rights. Commonly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, the law contains a rarely used provision that allows private citizens to sue other citizens for civil rights violations.

During closing arguments, lawyers for the plaintiffs told jurors that the defendants "planned, executed and then celebrated" racially motivated violence that killed one counterprotester and injured dozens over the course of the two days.

The defendants used their closing arguments to distance themselves from Fields. Several defendants testified that they resorted to violence only after they or their associates were attacked. They've blamed the violence on anti-fascist protesters known as antifa as well as one another.

The lawsuit is being funded by Integrity First for America, a nonprofit civil rights organization.

Statue Removal
The jurors in the U.S. District Court are being asked to decide whether white supremacists, white nationalist organizations and neo-Nazis are responsible for violence during the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Above, workers remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Market Street Park July 10, 2021, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Initial plans to remove the statue four years ago sparked the infamous “Unite the Right” rally where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images