Fields was convicted of murder and sentenced to death 23 years ago by a judge who later was found to be corrupt in the infamous Operation Greylord case. Last week, Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan acquitted Fields of the murder, closing a case that originally had been decided by a judge who fixed at least three murder cases.
Here is how Matthew Walberg, of the Chicago Tribune, described what transpired in the first trial, back in 1986:
Judge Thomas J. Maloney, a tough former boxer with a reputation as a law-and-order advocate during 13 years in Criminal Court, pocketed a $10,000 bribe to acquit Fields and a co-defendant. But during the trial, Maloney sensed authorities were onto the fix and handed the bribe money back to a corrupt lawyer at a side door to his courtroom, federal prosecutors contended. The judge then convicted Fields and co-defendant Earl Hawkins of both murders and sentenced them to death.
Maloney wound up being convicted and serving more than a dozen years in prison for fixing three murder trials. He died at 83 last October, a few months after his release from prison. Writes Walberg:
(Maloney's) 1993 guilty verdict grew out of a federal sting code-named Operation Greylord that led to the conviction of 15 corrupt judges, but Maloney's crimes were unprecedented. He is the only Cook County judge ever convicted of rigging murder cases.
Fields wound up serving almost two decades behind bars, 11 of them on Death Row. His retrial came more than a decade after his first conviction was overturned because of Maloney's corruption.
The Nathson Fields of 23 years ago evidently was not a terribly wholesome fellow. But even unwholesome people do not deserve to be cheated by loathsome judges.
Investigations of judges and the judicial processes they use should be widespread and ongoing. If a handful of criminals wearing black robes and their collaborators were busted in Cook County during one sweep, odds are excellent a larger net will yield more criminals. Why would anyone assume for a second that this group of mostly former lawyers suddenly find integrity when ordained with virtual limitless power? Independence is a splendid concept for perfect people at the helm. Engorging thousands of judges with vast immunity protections, places every citizen seeking justice in a court of law at grave risk.
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