An Illinois man is at the center of a case that has rocked the legal community in the past year. Nathson Fields, a Chicago area gang member who was convicted of double homicide in 1986 and sent to death row for those crimes was likely the victim of prosecutorial misconduct. Mr. Fields spent 17 years in prison before his acquittal in 2009. The misconduct allegations stem from multiple incidents where the prosecutors in the case, former Illinois assistant state attorney Lawrence Wharrie and his co-counsel, Assistant district attorney David Kelley coerced or threatened witnesses into testifying against Mr. Fields. Thomas Maloney, the judge in the case had been separately convicted for taking bribes to change the outcome of court cases. He ended up serving 15 years in prison before passing away in 2008.
The state has decided not bring criminal charges against Wharrie and Kelley in a case before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The court declared that the since Kelley’s actions occurred before the beginning of the trial he covered by prosecutorial immunity while Wharrie’s actions did not fall under that purview since they occurred after the trial began. While criminal charges may not be likely this verdict opens the door for Mr. Fields to file a civil lawsuit against Wharrie for damages related to his false prosecution. Not all of the judges in the case agreed with the majority decision. Circuit Court Judge Diana Sykes disagreed with her fellow justices with the reasoning that previous case law may have been unclear as to the range of immunity prosecutors are entitled to and that prosecutors may have limited or full immunity while working in their capacity as agents of the court.
Patrick Donovan is a criminal defense attorney in Massachusetts. Attorney Donovan represents people charged with felony and misdemeanor crimes in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. Attorney Donovan has appeared in over fifty courts in Massachusetts as well in Federal Court in Boston. If you know someone charged with a crime call for a free consultation