A former death row inmate who was cleared of a double homicide in a re-trial five years ago was denied his “certificate of innocence” Tuesday after a judge issued a lengthy ruling doubting his credibility.
In his 50-page decision, Chief Cook County Criminal Courts Judge Paul Biebel Jr. said Nathson Fields has an “apparent predilection to fabricate legal claims” and has perjured himself and asked others to do the same when they took the stand on his behalf.
Biebel also said it was unbelievable that Fields, a former “general” for the El Rukn street gang, didn’t know about the criminal activities about the gang as he had claimed.
Ultimately, Biebel said, Fields has “unclean hands” because he was a “willing participant” in the bribing of the crooked judge who oversaw his first trial.
“This court finds that the petitioner has not met his burden by a preponderance of the evidence that he is actually innocent of the crimes charged, and he did not by his own conduct bring about his conviction,” Biebel Jr. said at the conclusion of his ruling.
Fields spent 11½ years on death row for the 1984 murders of rival gang members Jerome “Fuddy” Smith and Talman Hicks.
He was granted a new trial in 1998 when the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that he and his co-defendant Earl Hawkins had been denied a fair trial since Thomas J. Maloney, the judge who heard the initial case in 1986, took a $10,000 bribe from Hawkins’ lawyer to acquit the two men.
Maloney later returned the money, convicted the men and sentenced them to death when he learned he was under federal investigation.
Maloney, who died in 2008, spent 13 years in prison for fixing murder cases.
Judge Vincent Gaughan acquitted Fields in a re-trial in 2009.
Biebel initially granted Fields a certificate of innocence, which would bolster the wrongful-conviction lawsuit he brought against the city.
But then State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez challenged Biebel’s decision and won the appeal, sending the case back to the judge for an evidentiary hearing late last year.
Fields’ federal case against the city is scheduled to begin next week, his lawyers said.
Fields, now 60, said he was “disappointed” about Biebel’s ruling but said he felt “peaceful” and will continue to fight.
“I was framed for something I didn’t do, but it is what it is,” Fields said after the brief court hearing.
“I just don’t understand. . . . It’s like I’ve been retried all over again even though I was found not guilty. I just don’t know where does it end?”
Hawkins and Derrick Kees, two admitted killers in the El Rukn gang, were given reduced sentences to testify against Fields during his more recent quest for his certificate of innocence.
However, Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Sexton pointed out last November that even under the deal, the men will stays behind bars until they are in their 70s.
Sexton on Tuesday said he was “happy” with Biebel’s ruling.