BELLEVILLE – Circuit Judge Robert Haida, who left decisions on testimony hanging in suspense when he granted a mistrial to murder suspect David Fields in July, must make those decisions for a second trial starting Dec. 3.
At a hearing on Nov. 2, with Fields present, he reviewed open issues with defense counsel Brittany Kimble and special prosecutor Charles Colburn.
They argued over testimony along the very line that spoiled the trial.
Kimble moved for mistrial on the third day of testimony, after eyewitness Michael Taylor testified about a shotgun.
She and Colburn had agreed to exclude testimony about a shotgun, because victim Carl Silas didn’t die from a shotgun blast.
Two shots from a rifle in the AK-47 family killed Silas.
The murder occurred on Dec. 30, 2016, before dawn, in an apartment outside Belleville city limits on West Boulevard.
Jamie Lott, mother of Silas’s children, named Fields as the shooter.
So did her mother, Latisha Traylor, and others in the apartment.
They told police someone they couldn’t identify broke in with Fields.
Fields turned himself in at county jail, and the Major Case Squad assembled a team of investigators from around the region.
They claimed Circuit Judge Ron Duebbert obstructed them, but a grand jury heard his testimony and issued no indictment.
The charge nevertheless remains pending before the Judicial Inquiry Board, and for that reason Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson doesn’t let Duebbert hear cases.
Investigators who focused on Fields and Duebbert pursued no other leads.
They didn’t apprehend a second suspect.
They didn’t recover the rifle.
As trial approached this summer, Kimble filed 23 motions to narrow Colburn’s options or widen her own.
Colburn conceded all of them, and Haida granted them.
One allowed Kimble to argue that Lott had motive to kill Silas.
Another barred testimony that Fields carried a shotgun on a previous occasion.
At trial, two days of testimony produced no solid evidence.
The crime scene technician hadn’t collected much evidence beyond photographs.
The fingerprint expert hadn’t found prints.
The firearm expert had examined a gun from the scene but not a rifle.
At that point the state’s case depended on witnesses from the apartment.
The first one, Traylor, said she recognized Fields by his eyes, nose, and walk.
On cross examination she said the lights weren’t on when she saw him.
She said Fields was family, but came up blank when Kimble asked her the year of his birth and his high school.
Kimble asked her how Fields walked, and she said “like many young dudes.”
Michael Taylor, the next witness from the apartment, testified the next morning but not for long.
Haida’s mistrial order postponed decisions he would have faced as the trial unfolded, and he started facing them at the Nov. 2 hearing.
At Friday’s hearing, Kimble said she objected to testimony that her client said he would rob somebody.
“We can’t get into this entire issue of Fields asking Silas about a robbery,” Kimble said.
“Did Silas have a propensity to rob? That’s a slippery slope.”
Colburn responded, saying, “We’re going to remove as much as possible any chance of going in that direction.”
He said that if Fields said he was going to rob somebody and shoot them in the face, going into that area was fair.
Kimble said Colburn tried to parse the conversation.
She said the value of the testimony would have to outweigh the prejudice.
Colburn said she needed to amend one of her motions before jury selection, and she said “no problem.”
Haida invited argument on Lott’s testimony.
Kimble said Lott told the Major Case Squad that Brandon “somebody” was the second intruder.
Colburn said that in interviews on Dec. 30, Dec. 31, and Jan. 2, Lott said she never saw the second person before.
He said that on the last day of trial, she named an individual after people showed an image to her on Facebook.
“The investigation into the second man continues,” Colburn said.
He said Kimble’s position would leave the state to disprove the second person’s identification and tell the jury why there has been no arrest.
Kimble said, “Ms. Lott’s statements have been very fluid.”
“She (Lott) has contradicted herself on many occasions throughout the investigation,” Kimble said.
“How many times did she change her story?
“To spell out every one of her inconsistencies is a right to Mr. Fields.”
Kimble said she received no new report since January.
“This is not an ongoing investigation,” she said.
Colburn said the reports of Dec. 30, Dec. 31, and Jan. 2 were fair, but he was concerned with a statement from this May.
Haida asked why not May.
Colburn said it leads to an implication that the second person should have been arrested.
Haida asked about relevance and Colburn said there was none.
Haida asked Kimble if the thrust of the question was to discredit Lott.
Kimble said, “If she denies her second statement, it’s perfect impeachment.
“I have a picture of what she brought on Facebook to Major Case Squad.”
Haida took it under advisement.