Judge Exonerates Man Who Spent 12 Years On Death Row For Wrongful Conviction

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Nathson Fields has endured a decades-long battle with the justice system following a wrongful conviction of the murder of two rival gang members in Chicago in 1984. Now, after spending nearly 18 years in prison — 12 of those on death row — Fields can finally start with a clean slate.

According to NBC News, Fields was exonerated in a re-trial after U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly deemed that witnesses’ reports were unsubstantial. The Chicago Tribune adds that two Chicago detectives — Joseph Murphy and David O’Callaghan — reportedly framed Fields for the murder of Jerome “Fuddy” Smith and Talman Hickman. An investigation also revealed that during a bench trial, Circuit Judge Thomas Maloney fixed the case by accepting $10,000. He reportedly returned the money because he sensed that the FBI was made aware of the bribe, but was convicted for manipulating other cases of homicide.

READ: Tennessee Man Gets $75 After Spending 31 Years In Prison On A Wrongful Conviction

Additionally, Fields won a $22 million lawsuit, which listed the city’s former Mayor Richard Daley and Chicago’s police officers as defendants. Following the decision, Fields reassured spectators that he’s standing before them “as the living proof that there’s other men in prison for things they didn’t do.” His wrongful conviction lawsuit was filed in 2010. “I’m a man that’s spent 12 years in a cage on death row, five-by-seven, I could touch all the walls,” Fields said. “I saw men lose their minds due to the stress of death row.”

In a press briefing, Fields’ attorney, Jon Loevy, said his client’s case is the reason why the death penalty should be abolished. “When someone like Mr. Fields could have been executed twice for a crime he didn’t commit, it took the system a long time to figure out a mistake was made, and that’s a real good argument why we shouldn’t have the death penalty,” he said. “…A lot of the evidence at trial concerned this 400 to 1,000 files that are in the basement of the city of Chicago that contain material that are relevant to people’s criminal cases,” he continued. “And what the jury found was that the city has a policy and practice of withholding evidence — and there’s maybe other people in prison whose files are affected by this practice.”