BELLEVILLE – St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida has set trial for murder suspect David Fields to start on July 23.
Fields has waited for a trial date at county jail for more than a year.
He allegedly murdered Carl Silas of Belleville on Dec. 30, 2016.
Witnesses told sheriff’s deputies that Fields and another person broke into their apartment before dawn. No other suspect has been arrested.
Fields had already gained fame by staying briefly in the home of judicial candidate Ron Duebbert after serving a sentence for domestic battery.
Duebbert won the election, but Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson has not allowed him to perform judicial duties.
Special prosecutors tried to build a case that Duebbert obstructed the investigation of Silas’s murder, but no charges have resulted.
In Fields’s case, Haida continued hearings from month to month all year.
Defense lawyers Brittany Kimble of Chicago and Ryan Neal of Creve Coeur, Mo., did not press for a speedy trial.
They claimed that more than once, they received discovery after being told they had received everything from prosecutors.
For a hearing on the afternoon of Jan. 30, they arrived in a skeptical mood.
Deputy Justin Biggs entered Haida’s court, carrying big file folders and a tall plastic cylinder nearly full of compact discs.
He gave his load to Kimble, who asked him if he had a certificate of compliance.
He said no.
Deputies brought Fields into court, and he sat next to Kimble.
Haida set trial for the week of July 23, with a pretrial conference on June 22. Motions will be heard on April 2.
He said a subpoena had been served on the sheriff that afternoon for the case file.
Biggs identified the folders and discs as the response to the subpoena.
“I am hoping this is really everything,” Kimble said.
Haida said the officer was there if she wanted him to testify.
She said she did, and Biggs took an oath.
She asked if he reviewed all files, and if he had given her everything.
After answering yes to both questions, Biggs was excused.
Kimble softly said something to Haida, who said, “Are you talking about sanctions?”
She softly answered, and he said she could file a motion for the April 2 hearing.
He said he would inquire then about the status of discovery and the obligations of the parties.
Haida granted Fields $5,000, to pay investigator Kevin McClain at $60 an hour.
He told Kimble she could come back if that amount neared depletion.
In a motion for fees that Neal filed on the date of the hearing, he wrote, “Defendant stands before this court charged with a Class X felony.”
“If convicted, he faces a possible sentence of life in prison,” Neal wrote.
“To guarantee the reliability of the proceedings, it is essential that defense counsel be provided with the assistance of a criminal investigator to assist counsel in effectively preparing for trial.
“The state must, as a matter of equal protection, provide indigent prisoners with the basic tools of an adequate defense or appeal, when those tools are available for a price to other prisoners.”
Haida declared Fields indigent in December.