‘You have so many supporters,’ judge’s friend tells murder suspect
After deliberating for nearly nine hours, a St. Clair County jury late Monday found David E. Fields not guilty in the murder of Carl Silas nearly two years ago.
The jury, which listened to five days of testimony last week, began deliberating about noon Monday before reaching a verdict shortly before 9 p.m.
Silas was shot and killed in a Belleville apartment on Dec. 30, 2016. A key witness for the prosecution, Jamie Lott, testified that Fields was her cousin and he was the one who had murdered Silas, her boyfriend and the father of their two children.
Lott told the jury she recognized his eyes and voice through an all-black ski mask and the all-black clothing he was wearing, even though the apartment was dark except for a blue light from a television in the room where the couple slept.
As soon as St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert B. Haida read the two words “not guilty,” tears sprang from the eyes of his mother, Takeila Blackwell, and his uncle who hugged her as both wailed aloud.
One family member pumped his fist and said, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank God.”
Then, he shouted to Fields, who turned around at the defense table momentarily to face his supporters.
Charles Colburn, a special prosecutor for the state, said, “We certainly respect the jury’s verdict and appreciate the witnesses coming forward and doing their best to present their testimony.”
Ryan Neal, one of the two attorneys who defended Fields, was elated with the verdict.
“We are excited. Thank God. Justice prevailed,” Neal said. “That’s what the verdict should’ve been. The jury stuck in there and finished their job.”
First trial ended in a mistrial
This was the second time Fields stood trial on the murder charge. A mistrial in Fields’ case was declared by St. Clair County Circuit Judge Bob Haida in July during the first trial when Michael Taylor, a man who was said to be in the apartment when Silas was shot to death, gave testimony regarding a gun. Haida ruled that Taylor should not have testified about the gun, and ordering jurors to ignore the testimony was not enough to protect Fields’ right to a fair trial.
Belleville Police pushed for murder charges against Fields, who is accused of breaking into his aunt’s apartment at 2913 West Blvd., near Belleville, ordering people in the apartment to give him money, then killing Silas as he lay in his bed.
The case went beyond the usual criminal parameters when it became publicly reported that Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert once allowed Fields, who had a violent criminal record, to reside in the judge’s west Belleville home.
After the murder charge was filed against Fields, Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson removed Duebbert from hearing cases and reassigned him to other judicial matters. Duebbert has said he was only trying to help Fields turn his life around by offering him a home.
In July, judge formally dismissed criminal sexual abuse and intimidation charges against Duebbert.
During a brief hearing, the prosecutor, Lorinda Lampkin of the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, said the accuser was intimidated by the court process, which would have included testifying against Duebbert in open court, where cameras would have recorded the trial.
Duebbert, a Republican, defeated former Chief Judge John Baricevic, a Democrat, in the 2016 election.
Police investigating the murder asked that charges be brought against Duebbert for obstruction for alleging failing to tell them about alleged contact with Fields shortly after the killing occurred. Those charges were never brought.
A complaint has been filed concerning Duebbert with the state Judicial Inquiry Board. The board does not publicly comment about a case until a decision of whether to hand down discipline has been made.