tv Death Row Stories CNN February 2, 2020 5:00pm-6:00pm PST
out a crime like this without leaving behind some sort of evidence. zl that was the key with finding out who did it. >> ex-trord ntraordinary. >> he may have committed the perfect crime. >> they thought they knew who he was looking for. this was different than what they expected. >> you'd have to include all possibilities. >> create a picture of this person based on the dna in the case. >> trace evidence analyzed. >> there was something there. >> she saw it coming. she saw who her killer was. >> shocking. absolutely shocking. on this episode of "death
row stories" -- >> shocked. blood everywhere. two men are dead on chicago's south side. >> it was intimidation, blow his head off and smile. >> the african-american community had problems with the police. >> possible motives, suspects. they never went after these guys. >> but the case reveals corruption at the highest level. >> a judge was convicted of fixing murder cases. >> there had to be police reports missing. >> you make that mistake. it ain't no coming back. >> there's a body in the water. >> he was butchered and murdered. >> many people proclaim their innocence. >> in this case, there are a number of things that stink. >> this man is remorseless. >> he needs to pay for it with his life. >> the electric chair flashed in front of my eyes. >> get a conviction at all costs. let the truth fall where it may.
we're going to take you now to chicago where this past weekend at least 52 people were shot, eight of them killed, in a wave of violence across the city. >> yesterday alone, nine people shot, two of them killed, in less than an hour. >> people keep on getting shot, people keep on getting killed. >> the murders took place at the cross street right here. 1985, the big green project building right here. gang banging, everybody had their own separate gangs in the project to survive the projects. >> on april 28th, 1984, two men were murdered outside a high-rise public housing project on chicago's south side. 30-year-old jerome fuddy smith and 28-year-old tallman hickman
were shot at point-blank range in broad daylight. >> i was 14 years old. we come out, waiting on my guys to come out, play baseball. crossed the street, then we heard shots. turned around, saw a man wearing ski masks. we ran down the opposite side. when the police got there, like dang. fuddy landed on one side, landed like he trying to run. blood everywhere. >> fuddy smith had been the leader of a small gang on the south side called the black goon squad. goon squad members had been at war with their more powerful rivals, a gang called the el rukns. >> historically goon squad
members were the natural enemy to the el rukn. the block goon squad formed kind of a stick-up crew in the vicinity of the ida b. wells projects, which is in close proximity to the el rukn headquarters. >> investigating the brazen daylight murders of the goon squautd -- squad members, chicago homicide detective david o'callahan saw the telltale signs of a hit. >> they were famous for running up behind a guy, shoot him in the head, could do it in front of 40 people in the neighborhood. it was an intimidation factor. we can do this guy right in front of you, blow his head off and walk away and smile. >> with gangs in control in so many neighborhoods, police struggled to find witnesses willing to speak. >> on the south side of chicago, the relationship between the black community and the police department historically has been an extremely strained
relationship. so the african-american community in general had problems with the police department. >> we were going out after people that had been identified on the scene that night. every door on every floor was knocked on. and people looked to be cooperating too much, then you could get a guy killed by the el rukns. so i know i'm not going to get any cooperation. >> a year after the goon squad murders, detectives got a break in the case. >> the el rukns were playing on the south side of chicago with drugs and murders. they had a team of hitmen. they were the muscle for the el rukns. eventually they got prosecuted and a number of them flipped,
decided to cooperate. >> one of those cooperators was high-ranking el rukn member anthony sumner. under questioning, sumner soon implicated two fellow gang members in the goon squad murders, earl hawkins and nate fields. sumner claimed nate had openly bragged about the murders. >> he tells nathan, hey, i hear you're involved in that double or that shooting and nathan makes a comment like, yeah, that was a good exercise. >> nate fields was already on law enforcement's radar. >> he's an el rukn since the '60s and committed a prior murder for the organization. >> fields had served 12 years for murder before being paroled. on june 13th, 1985, police arrested him for the goon squad murders.
>> i was arrested like 13 months after the crime had happened. i heard one of the cops say, see you in 40 years, nate. i was like, what? i didn't understand that. they took me in for a line-up. >> in the line-up, detective o'callahan instructed the witnesses. >> i want you to go to the room, pick out anybody that you feel or you know was involved in these shootings. when you come out of the room, i don't want any eye contact. i don't want anything because each of you are going to view separately. there's no discussion to be had. everybody says nathan fields is the shooter. >> the proof against nathan at that time was essentially the identification. a witness had been across the street playing baseball at the time of the shooting. another witness had identified nathan as one of the people who was escaping from the shooting.
>> the two guys who allegedly did the crime supposed to have been light skinned, 17 to 20, between those ages. i was 32 and i was dark skinned. that was something that i was hoping that the judge or the jury would see. >> in 1986, nate fields and codefendant earl hawkins went to trial for murder. facing the death penalty, they waived their right to a jury and opted for judge thomas maloney to decide the case. >> there was all this information about how terrible an organization the el rukns were, how ruthless they were. when people crossed them, they would have no hesitation about killing the people. that was a major problem in the case because nathan acknowledged that he was an el rukn. >> on june 27th, 1986, judge maloney found nate fields and
earl hawkins guilty of murder. caught off guard by the verdict, fields and hawkins requested that a jury decide their punishment. >> the jury said, yes, your honor, we reached a verdict. and they said, what is the verdict? and they told them the verdict is death by lethal injection. >> i was there during the death sentencing. they said that we're going to give them so many ccs of the different solutions that they give them. the breathing would become shallow, his heart was going to slow down. they would check him to be sure that he had died, that he was dead. >> it was devastating. i'm just shaking my head like, i can't believe i'm about to die for this, for something i didn't
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serious allergic reactions, and changes in lab results. tell your doctor if you've been somewhere fungal infections are common, or if you've had tb, hepatitis b or c, or are prone to infections. don't let another morning go by without asking your doctor about xeljanz xr. ♪ applebee's new irresist-a-bowls without asking your doctor about now starting at $7.99. now that's eatin' good in the neighborhood. in october 1986, nate fields arrived on death row at the pontiac correctional center in illinois. >> i walked in.
i was shackled. i had three guards, two on each side and one behind, holding the chain between my legs behind me and walking me like i was a dog. i saw two rows of cells. and there was men standing in every door. some men was old, some was black, white, latino, some was young, some was kids. that very night i started hearing guys screaming at night, screaming their children, their mother's names, screaming god's name and just calling for mercy all night, every night. it just made me reflect on everything. i grew up in robbins, illinois, nice, quiet neighborhood. i was one of seven children by my mom and dad. i did everything other kids did,
played games, swam in the creeks, chased crawfish. while i was in high school, i got into sports. i became the south suburban champion wrestler at 167 pounds. and i felt i was headed for college. >> while nate was excelling in school, his younger brother joined a gang. >> he's just a young kid. we all were very young. and the rivals jumped him, they beat him. when he came home, he had blood all over his clothes and his lip was busted. he was just all scared and frightened. and i was so moved by it i just told my little brother, i said, well hey, you tell all those guys i'm about to join, i'm in now. >> guys joined these gangs for a lot of different reasons. but historically they formed these gangs as a way for young african-american males to defend themselves against being attacked by young white ethnic
gangs that lived in those communities as well. and so what that did is it created an environment of crime and violence. and as the whites left, it left these street gangs there not to fight whites anymore, and they began to turn on themselves and fight each other. >> in the 1980s, the city of chicago experienced over 7,000 murders, many carried out by street gangs. but the el rukns struck a balance between criminality and community activism. >> the el rukns had a very distinctive kind of swag. they could have some gator shoes on and a suit. so you had a mixture of the streets with the islamization of the organization. >> they were into religion. they were into afro-centric things where they dressed with dashikis.
they had services on fridays and sundays. >> the el rukns were the most political of any other black street gang. so they were always on the front line of being targeted by the police because they were always a huge political threat. >> as a young el rukn, nate found himself surrounded by violence. >> at the age of 17 i was involved in an incident with a friend of mine. somebody pulled up in the car and yelled out a gang slogan and we got to fighting. and then suddenly while i'm fighting this other guy, a shot rings out, pow. i turn over and i see this other guy going down. and the guy that was with me shot him. i was charged with that murder. just that one thing, you know, it destroyed all that.
>> nate served 12 years in prison. when he was released in 1983, the el rukns helped him get back on his feet. >> the el rukns, they controlled a lot of buildings that they owned. i think they realized i was pretty good with my hands. so they made me a manager of one of their buildings. my girlfriend was pregnant with my daughter at the time. and -- i thought i was on the right track. >> by the time nate arrived on death row in october of 1986, he had become a new father. >> my daughter was born in december 1985, the same year that i was arrested. i didn't see my daughter come into the world, never got a chance to carry her on my shoulders or my back. i never really even got a chance
to know her. i couldn't stay in touch. so i just made my mind up, i'm getting out of here, i'm not going to stop until they find what they did. >> for help with his appeal, nate enlisted john stainthorp, a chicago attorney who specializes in wrongful convictions. >> some very strange things had happened in the case. there were police reports right at the time of the murder and a few days afterwards. then there was nothing until suddenly he gets arrested in 1985, over a year later. i immediately knew there was something fishy about that, because there's no way that there would not be police reports if there was a continuing investigation. i could see there had to be police reports missing. >> withholding detailed notes known as street files was a notorious practice within the
chicago police department. >> street files were files that were kept by the police in which information was placed that they didn't want to go into the official file. why didn't they want it to go in the official file? because it was not consistent with the theory of the case that they subsequently went with. >> stainthorp repeatedly subpoenaed the police department for the street files, with little success. but in 1991, after five years on death row, nate received news that gave him hope for a second chance. >> another prisoner said, nate, you're in the newspaper. i'm like, nobody's talking about me anymore. so he passed the article. and it said my judge had just been indicted for taking bribes in murder cases, including my own.
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in 1991, nate fields learned that judge thomas maloney, who had convicted him of murder, had been caught in an fbi sting operation. >> three judges and seven others were indicted last week in connection with "operation graylord," a 3 1/2 year investigation of alleged official corruption in cook county, illinois. >> "operation graylord" was an undercover investigation into corruption in the cook county cord system. there had been a history of corruption in chicago in the court system all throughout at almost every level with the court personnel, the lawyers and of course the judges. >> it came to light that the attorney for nate's codefendant earl hawkins had offered judge maloney a $10,000 bribe in exchange for acquittal. at the last minute, however, the judge had second thoughts. >> i didn't know anything about this during my trial, but the judge thought the government was
up on the bribe. so he gave the money back to my codefendant's attorney and convicted me and him to cover it up. >> the suggestion is that maloney did that to cover his tracks, but it is illegal for a government official to agree to accept a bribe even if he or she doesn't actually take the money or he or she gives it back. that's bribery anyway. so the jury convicted maloney of all charges. >> obviously a judge who takes money and then hands it back halfway through the trial because he's afraid he's going to get caught is not an impartial fact finder. >> my attorney stainthorp came to see me and told me the significance of maloney being indicted, that that would be a strong ground for me to get a new trial and get everything overturned.
>> in 1996, after nate had spent ten years on death row, judge maloney's verdict was thrown out and nate was granted a retrial. >> that took me off death row. and it caused them to bring me back to cook county jail for the retrial. it was like taking a big deep breath and like saying, whoo, i don't know how i made it, but i'm so glad i made it. >> nate's bail was set at $1 million. he remained in county jail while his attorney tracked down the eyewitnesss who identified nate at a line-up. >> one of the witnesses, we just went up to him and said, hey, can we talk to you a minute? you identified these folks at the trial and in the police reports. did you really know who they were? he said, absolutely not, i did see people, but i couldn't identify them. they were running away, their backs were to me, they had ski masks on. they were running away. and i said, well, how did you pick them out?
he said, by intuition. which i thought was a very bizarre phrase. by intuition? it suggested to me that he had been told who to pick out in this line-up. he was quite clear that what he'd previously testified to and his identification of nathan and earl hawkins was false. >> digging deeper, stainthorp made more troubling discoveries about nate's line-up. >> stainthorpe, when he filed for discovery, they gave him some pictures. it was the line-up. when he showed it to me i said, i never saw that. i had always been asking, where is my line-up picture? >> i was surprised i got the photo because the photo was of the line-up with the police officer pulling up nathan's shirt to show a tattoo. >> detective david o'callahan, he's the one that raised my what was significant about it is that i had a el rukn tattoo on
my arm. and all these guys in that line-up got long-sleeved shirts except me. they wanted whoever seeing the line-up to see my tattoo that had nothing to do with the case. nobody even said they saw a tattoo, so why are y'all just showing my arm to these people, whoever is over there? >> i was doing this for a prosecution, to show mr. fields' loyalty and affiliation with the almighty el rukns, his gang membership. so in case mr. fields came to court later and said, oh, i never, ever was a bad boy, i never was involved in gangs or anything. why would you have a tattoo such as that? >> while o'callahan insists nate's tattoos were covered when the witnesses were brought into the line-up room, the witnesses
belonged to the rival black goon squad and had ample opportunity to recognize the pyramid on nate's arm, an iconic symbol of the el rukn gang. >> through discovery we had the photo of the line-up. but i didn't essentially get anything else. even to the end of my representation of nathan, i knew that i didn't get all the police reports. i knew there was other stuff out there, but it never showed up. >> nate was unable to pay the $1 million bail, so he spent six years in county jail awaiting his retrial. then in 2003, aaron patterson, a recently pardoned friend from death row offered nate a way out. >> me and aaron had made a pact while i was on death row. we said, whichever one of us get out first, we'll reach back and get the other one. and that's how i got out. when the guards came to my cell
and they told me, nate, the time has come, you are going home. and they say, somebody bonded you out. and i was like, i knew it had to be aaron. i said, oh man. when i heard that and all the guys on the tier heard it in county jail, everybody, the whole thing erupted in joy. everybody was just screaming. it was just -- it was awesome. and as i started walking, i'm still in the prison. as i started walking down the sidewalk, i looked up in a tree. i hadn't been near a tree in 18 years. and to have that right there, i knew i was about to be free. after that, i walked on out. i came around to the gate. and all the press, the cameras, my family, about 50 people all standing there. it was a beautiful day. that was a beautiful day, it
really was. >> when he first came home, i kept going to the room to look and see, is this really happening, is he here? i'd even have to touch him, are you here? finally i get to touch my brother. >> it would take another six years for nate's retrial to begin. but now nate's codefendant earl hawkins had made a deal with the government. >> i was just shocked that he got on the stand and was going to testify against me. most people think of verizon as a reliable phone company. but to businesses, we're a reliable partner.
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their last walk. i saw it all. >> nate's codefendant earl hawkins wouldn't stand beside him at the retrial. instead, hawkins would testify against nate as the state's star witness. >> i knew hawkins from the building. he was a tenant in my building that i managed. i looked out for him and his wife and his kid all while they was over there. he truly know i had nothing to do with this, and i have always told him that. >> this was not the first time hawkins cooperated with the law. since leaving death row, he had testified against dozens of fellow el rukns. >> he had testified extensively at the federal trials of the el rukns. he himself had very, very significant credibility problems. he had acknowledged in the federal trials that he would
essentially say anything to get himself out of trouble. >> they tried to paint him as a star witness, because he was an el rukn. i watched him get on the stand, and i was trying to make eye contact. because i felt if i could make eye contact, maybe he'll come out and say, i can't do this to him. but he never looked at me. >> hawkins testified that nate had been the shooter, but under cross examination he exposed his own murderous past as an el rukn hitman. >> hawkins admitted on the stand that he had killed over 15 people. i was shaking my head like, what the? i couldn't believe him saying that. >> on april 8th, 2009, before giving his verdict, the judge discredited earl hawkins' testimony.
>> the judge broke down every single witness that testified. and then each one he was saying how they deserved no credibility, and especially earl hawkins. and he just trashed the state's entire case. and then he announced me not guilty. >> that was a great day, the day of victory. i really wished my mom could have been there, because she was there for the death sentencing, but she wasn't there for the acquittal. and i knew how much that meant to her. but her presence was there with us. >> nate had spent 23 years under the threat of the death penalty. but back in regular life, struggling to even find odd jobs, he decided to sue the city of chicago, including the police officers involved in his case.
>> it was important for me to go after the officers who framed me just to hold them accountable. you know, i'm a human being, i'm a person. you know, i got feelings. i want to be free. >> civil rights attorney candice gorman agreed to argue nate's case. >> you know, we've had such a tragic history here in illinois of convicting people who did not do crimes and coverups by the chicago police department. and i liked the whole idea of going after the police department for framing what i thought was another innocent person. i said, nate, let's start out with this. i know you think there's a street file, and i know that you are thinking that it's still out there and that you're going to get it. that was 26 years ago, and that file does not exist anymore. trust me, nate, it does not exist. famous last words.
>> candice filed her lawsuit in 2010. among other claims, accusing detectives of hiding nate's street files in order to frame him for murder. >> in a federal lawsuit, you file for discovery. about six months into the lawsuit, i got the first couple boxes of documents from the city. and i had a law clerk at the time, and i asked her if she'd go through and catalog what was in there. maybe an hour later she came in and said, candice, i think you want to see something that's in here, i think we found the street file. double. that will have you g all on t-mobile's newest, most powerful signal. get twice the deal, with 2 lines of unlimited for $90 and 2 iphone 11s on us. only at t-mobile. and my side super soft? yes. with the sleep number 360 smart bed, on sale now,
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other potential suspects. >> those documents made me go, holy shit. there were lots of indications of possible motives, suspects, and their actual names. i mean, the police never went after these guys. >> the street file had a completely different theory which had nothing to do with the el rukns. and that would have been a very useful thing to try and investigate. >> raise your right hand, please. do you solemnly swear that the testimony you're about to give in this proceeding will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do. >> thank you. >> in a 2013 deposition, candice interviewed detective david o'callahan about the street files. >> do you understand that mr. fields had the right to see those notes at the time that he was charged with the murders? >> i would assume so. >> and so for you to sit here 30 years later and say every one of those tips and documents in that file has been refuted when he
and his attorneys never had a chance to look at them contemporaneously, do you understand the problem with that? >> i -- >> objection. form of the question, foundation. you may answer. >> all right. here's what i'm saying as we sit here today. >> please answer my question. >> okay. i don't know whether he saw or did not see those files. i'm taking your word he did not. i'm saying that if he did have those files, and did or did not have those files, it would make no difference to his guilt in this case. >> at nate's civil trial in 2014, his team came armed with affidavits from eyewitnesss, claiming detective o'callahan coached them and offered favors in return for identifying fields as the shooter. >> he was the one who was out there talking to witnesses and scaring them, you know, these little kids, into testifying
against nate. and you know, we had some of the testimony from those kids from the criminal trial, we read it into the jurors. >> i believe these affidavits to be totally false and fictitious and made up and of no value at all. >> but you have no evidence of that, do you? >> i have prior, i have prior -- first of all, yes, i have evidence. i know as i sit here today that i do a straight and honest investigation and that what i did was straight and honest. second of all, i read this stuff and i read there's falsehoods in here that everybody would know is falsehoods. so somebody typed this up and put it in someone's face and got them to sign it. >> the civil jury found that detective o'callahan violated nate's rights by coaching witnesses, but they also ruled against nate concerning the city's practice of withholding street files. >> who else is in prison because
their file is in one of these file cabinets? i filed a motion very quickly i filed a motion very quickly after that one asking for a new trial. >> candice's request was granted. and the judge also gave her access to street files from dozens of other cases. >> so i said, i want to see the file cabinet. and they took me to a room where there were 18 to 20 file cabinets. 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 1985, 2009. and i'm like, wait, this cabinet's been here this whole time next to all these, you know contemporary files? this makes no sense. i took pictures of all of that, where these files were kept. because that, to me, showed the
whole attitude of the chicago police. it's in a boiler room. there's water stains on the floor. and that, to me, is still remarkable and sad and unconscionable. >> to prove her point, candice wheeled an entire cabinet filled with missing street files into the courtroom for the jury to see. >> it was an awesome scene when candice gorman, my attorney, brought all these file cabinets in the courtroom and rolled them in with thousands of pages of street files. not only on my case but hundreds of other young men and women who were charged with murders all over chicago who never knew that it was more evidence that they never saw. >> of 50 homicide cases that candice examined, 45 were missing street file information. the jury found these cases
proved a pattern of withholding evidence by chicago's police. they awarded nate $22 million in damages. >> the jury came back with the verdict, and they read it all. i was like, did i really hear that? at visionworks we guarantee you will see great and look great. "guaranteed" we say that too! you've gotta use these because we don't mean it. buy any pair at regular price, get one free. really!
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i stand before you as the living proof that there is other men in prison for things they didn't do because of the city's policy. >> nate was awarded $22 million in his case against the city of chicago. since his release, he has begun to rebuild his life. >> our prayers have finally been answered. all the things that we had talked about and dreamt about that we used to do, we used to fish a lot. we've been fishing. he can come over for christmas dinner, thanksgiving dinner. we're a close-knit family. we spend a lot of time together. and it's been great joy having my brother home. >> while nate kept close contact with his sister throughout his sentence, his years behind bars took a toll on other relationships. >> my girlfriend was pregnant with my daughter when i was arrested. so 18 years later i was trying to find her.
and i was leaving work one day and i was waiting to cross the street downtown on dearborn, and i looked across the street and i saw a young lady standing there, and i said, oh, that's my daughter. and i just stopped and said, nathina, nathina, i just yelled her name. and she looked at me. and i knew it was her. that's how i found my daughter. fully grown, 18. i told her i loved her. she told me she loved me. >> meanwhile, nate's case drags on. the city of chicago has repeatedly appealed the judgment in nate's civil case. >> i still haven't received my award of $22 million.
i have not received a dime. >> candice gorman now represents some of the defendants whose records she discovered in chicago's long-missing street files. >> there's not a week that goes by when i don't get a letter or a call from somebody who wants to know if i've got a file for them. all of us, defendants and attorneys, need to be aware that there is nothing that the city won't do to try to avoid admitting their mistakes, and we've got to be after them, we've got to keep searching for these files. you can't be complacent. you need to ask questions and make sure that you don't stop. nate didn't stop. >> i think nate's case has to some extent been an impetus for reform. but you are also dealing with a police department that has shown it's massively resistant. >> people of great authority can do incredibly corrupt things.
and people sometimes don't want to accept that. >> after 18 years behind bars, including 11 on death row, nate now has a new mission, working to abolish the death penalty. >> what is we holding on to this thing for? we don't need it. >> witness innocence is the only death penalty abolition group that's comprised of death row survivors. and that's why i'm a part of it. every one of us was on death row for something we didn't do. we're human. human beings make mistakes. we see it all the time in the baseball game, the guy slides into third base, he's out. on further review he's safe. that guy can go back to second base. you factor in the death penalty, you make that mistake, it ain't no coming back. you can't correct it.
>> on this episode of "death row stories," a young couple is brutally murdered. >> visualize the worst terror, being chased through the house. >> and a secret recording seals the case. >> i heard my heart beat. this is the father of my children. this is someone i love. but when the evidence is questioned -- >> it was virtually inaudible. >> [ speaking in foreign language ]