Former Death Row Inmate Awarded $22 Million For Wrongful Conviction
Nathson Fields; image courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
A former gang member who was wrongfully convicted for murder and sentenced to serve 12 years on death row, has now been awarded $22 million.
In a report from NBC Chicago, a 12-member federal jury this past Thursday decided that the city of Chicago, as well as current and former police officers, were liable for more than $22 million in damages in the wrongful conviction of former gang member Nathson Fields.
Fields’ suit included 38 defendants that listed the city; former Mayor Richard Daley; Chicago Police officers; and former and current Cook County prosecutors. He was awarded $22 million in compensatory damages and $40,000 in punitive damages.
The suit goes all the way back to 1984 when Fields was falsely arrested, indicted and convicted for the murders of two people on the city’s South Side. Fields first filed a lawsuit back in 1988, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he was given access to files that were pertinent to his lawsuit win.
Those files were a part of what the Chicago Police Department and city refer to as “street files,” which were withheld from Fields.
“The city of Chicago was independently liable here because they maintained a street file practice all through the ’80s and continuing through the ’90s and even into the 2000s,” Jon Loevy, Fields’ attorney, said. “They have a practice at the city where they withhold exculpatory evidence in a parallel set of files and we presented that evidence to the jury.”
Most of the evidence from Fields’ trial was taken from this street file, with 400 to 1,000 files used to support Fields’ suit.
Fields met with an executioner more than once during his time on death row, and was supposed to have gotten the death penalty. But his case, as well as the city withholding files beneficial to it, speaks to other people in prison who are possibly being affected by the same practice.