BELLEVILLE – Not guilty but not free, David Fields spent the night of Dec. 10 in St. Clair County jail after 12 jurors found he didn’t murder Carl Silas.
Circuit Judge Robert Haida told his family they could pick him up at the jail, but when they arrived at close to 10 p.m. a jail deputy told them he wouldn’t release Fields, citing a parole or probation violation.
He was ultimately released on the evening of Dec. 11, after Fields' defense counsel Ryan Neal sought relief from State Sen. James Clayborne.
On Tuesday morning, Neal said state officials told him Fields might remain in custody for a month or two, because his indictment caused corrections officials to allege a violation of supervised release from a previous case. Although Fields defeated the indictment, the allegation had remained active.
In an email to Clayborne’s office, he wrote that Fields was on a transport list for the Illinois Department of Corrections, and that officials from that office said Fields had to go before a parole review board.
Neal argued that Fields’s parole expired in October 2017, while he was in jail.
“This process is a waste of taxpayer money and state officials’ time, as well as most importantly a way to further confine my client for a violation based upon a charge for which he was found not guilty,” Neal wrote in an email to Clayborne.
The murder victim Silas died from two gunshots on Dec. 30, 2016, in a West Boulevard apartment.
Fields turned himself in at county jail that day, and has remained there ever since.
Haida brought him to trial this July, but granted a mistrial when witness Michael Taylor ventured into testimony that Haida had prohibited.
Testimony in the second trial began Tuesday Dec. 4, and ended Friday, Dec. 7.
Jurors began deliberating at 11 a.m. Monday.
At 5:30 p.m., Haida called them into court and said he received communication.
Haida told them their verdict must be unanimous and each juror must decide for himself or herself after impartial deliberation with the others.
He said they shouldn’t change their opinions for anyone.
Haida indicated he could make food and drink available, signaling that he didn’t plan to send them home without a verdict.
They delivered it at 9 p.m., and seven family members entered the court.
Haida told them there would be no demonstration until the jury left.
When he read the words, “not guilty,” Fields’s mother Takila Blackwell and his uncle Eric Blackwell hugged each other and cried.
The other family members beamed until the jury left.
Then the family showered praise, thanks, and gift cards on Neal and colleague Brittany Kimble.
Someone asked Eric Blackwell for a reaction and he said, “You already saw my reaction. Thank God.”
Takila Blackwell said, “I am just so thankful that we had the defensive team that we had and thankful that the jury saw through the lies that were told.”
Prosecutor Charles Colburn had advised jurors to disregard testimony of blood spatter expert Michael Knox, but jurors disregarded Colburn’s advice instead.
Knox alone raised reasonable doubt about the case against Fields.
He found the heaviest concentration of blood on the ceiling of the room where Silas died, and said it indicated the origin of a gunshot directly below. Within a degree of scientific certainty, he said that Silas was not shot in bed as Colburn alleged.
He found other signs that someone moved Silas and a blanket.
Contrary testimony of witnesses from the apartment failed to persuade jurors.
Above all, the verdict reflected Colburn’s failure to present physical evidence supporting the testimony.
In closing argument, lacking evidence that placed Fields in the apartment, Colburn could only offer evidence that placed him in the general area.
He said Fields lived in East St. Louis; he showed video of Fields entering and leaving Circle K on East Main Street in Belleville at 8 p.m. on the night before the murder.
“He’s in the area,” Colburn said. “He’s not in East St. Louis, he’s in Belleville.”
Pointing to a spot on a map where Fields visited an acquaintance, he said, “Hours before the murder, defendant is just blocks from the murder scene.”
Pointing to an area where Fields used a cellular phone at 3:29 a.m., he said, “He’s getting even closer to the murder scene.”
He said Fields made no call until 5:30 a.m., after the murder.
“He was apparently getting rides to escape from the area of the murder,” Colburn said.
He said a call went out at 5:36 a.m., and a call came in at 5:39 a.m.
“This might be the ride,” he said.
Colburn said the area of a call at 6:05 a.m. showed, “He’s moved. He’s gotten out.”
He said a call at 6:39 a.m. showed he was back in East St. Louis.
Next, he vouched for witness Jamie Lott, mother of Silas’s children.
He said she knew Fields by voice and appearance. He excused her statement to police that she heard three shots by saying, “To her, it seemed like three shots.”
“She told you her best recollection of what happened,” Colburn said.
He said witness Raynard Parker told jurors he woke to shots and reminded them that Parker testified that the door to the apartment was weak and it was easy for someone to come in.
He said Taylor, Lott’s brother, told them he heard shots and heard Lott scream; Taylor admitted he was in shock at his first statement to police, when he said a second suspect had the murder weapon.
He said Taylor had time to clear his mind.
“He was truthful and honest with you,” Colburn said.
He said spatter expert Knox wanted them to ignore facts because of an opinion he was paid $10,000 to give.
“Michael Knox had tremendous financial bias,” Colburn said.
He said that to believe Knox, they must believe that Lott, Taylor and Parker were coldblooded killers.
Kimble began her argument by telling jurors that 58 minutes passed between the murder at 4 a.m. and a 911 call at 4:58 a.m.
She said Lott and her family staged a scene and rehearsed a story and decided to frame Fields.
She pointed out discrepancies in Lott’s statements to police and in testimony. She said Lott first told police she had no idea who the second intruder was, but then she came up with a name.
She said Lott came up with another name this May.
She said Taylor swore he told police a different story after he spoke to Lott and their mother Latrisha Traylor. She said Parker told them he was punched and there was a lot of blood.
“Where is the impact spatter in his room from being punched?” Kimble asked.
“Where are the bloodstains tracking from his room to the living room? We don’t see it because it never happened.”
She asked why Traylor didn’t testify and said, “Was she tired of lying?”
Jurors didn’t know about the mistrial, so they didn’t know Kimble smashed Traylor’s testimony to bits in July.
Kimble asked how a shell casing got under a cover on the bed and why the cover didn’t look disheveled.
She asked why there was no blood on Lott.
She said everything of value was still in the house.
“Carl Silas was not killed lying in bed and David Fields had nothing to do with his death,” she said.
“I don’t know what happened to Carl Silas but I can tell you what didn’t happen.”
She said police tried to do their job but the investigation was tainted from the start. State police technician Virgil Perkins spent two hours determining what was important and what was not.
“Carl Silas deserved more,” she said.
She said no phone call correlated with Colburn’s map and no call placed him at 2913 West Boulevard.
She said someone else had access to the phone, because someone used it two hours after Fields turned himself in.
She said that when he turned himself in, no one performed a gunshot residue test that could have definitively established that he fired a gun.
“There isn’t evidence of flight,” she said. “No one testified they took him anywhere.”
In rebuttal, Colburn said, “Reasonable doubt doesn’t mean beyond all doubt.”
He said Silas didn’t fall because blood would be everywhere.
He said casings bounce all over the place.
He said Knox was not candid and forthright.
“He kept important information from you,” Colburn said.
On Traylor’s absence, he said, “Not everybody has to relive this again and again.”
He said a call after Fields turned himself in didn’t mean anything.
He told jurors Parker said the crime started around 4:30 a.m., and Lott said it lasted about 15 minutes.
He said the 911 call was before 4:50 a.m.
“The time line fits without any problem at all,” he said.
“There’s no 58 minute gap while they clean up the crime they committed.
“The police didn’t do everything they needed to do.”
He said it wouldn’t make sense to look for fingerprints because Fields had been in the apartment before.
He said the defense was theory was that Lott, Parker, Taylor, and Traylor wanted to frame Fields.
He asked why they would want to do that. He asked why they didn’t say it was an unknown intruder.
“He could have an alibi,” he said. “He could be with other people.”
Haida instructed the jurors and sent them out.