Jury Awards $80,000 To Former Death Row Inmate
CHICAGO (CBS) – A former Illinois death row inmate said his jury award of $80,000 is a travesty, after he was wrongly sent to prison for 18 years.
“I feel like the verdict does not reflect in no way what I went through being wrongly accused, of something I didn’t do, by this policeman,” former El Rukn gang member Nathson Fields said after a jury rejected his claims police and prosecutors conspired to frame him for the murders of two gang rivals, and intentionally burying documents that could have cleared him.
Jurors did find a lone Chicago police detective liable for violating Fields’ due process rights to a fair trial. Fields’ attorneys had argued the detective coached witnesses to point the finger at Fields for the slayings, even though the gunmen were wearing ski masks.
However, when the jury was then asked to determine how much Fields should be awarded, they decided on only $80,000.
Fields had asked for $18 million — $1 million for every year he was in prison.
“I think that would be a good balancing effect right there to compensate me for all the things that happened,” he said. “I know it’ll never make me whole, because money can never make me whole, what has happened to me, but it can help me get my life going again.”
Fields, who is black, also argued African-Americans should have been on the jury.
He said the jury’s ruling sends the wrong message.
“I think it sends the message that police who wrongfully imprison and fabricate evidence against a person who once was a gang member – it sends a message that it’s OK to do that,” Fields said.
Lawyers for the police detective said there is evidence Fields did commit the murders 30 years ago.