District Attorney: Terminated officer's actions jeopardize cases - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

District Attorney: Terminated officer's actions jeopardize cases

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The mother of a convicted murderer says she plans to file for her son's release after the lead investigator who worked his case, was fired from the Chattanooga Police Department last week.

Major Crimes Detective Karl Fields was fired after an internal affairs investigation determined he had inappropriate contact with a rape victim, whose case he was investigating. 

A special prosecutor will decide whether or not to take the case to a grand jury. Fields' attorney Jerry Tidwell calls the relationship consensual.

"Internal investigators stated there were gaps, missing text messages in what this young lady turned over to them. In other words, it would appear the texts were deleted or cherry-picked." said Jerry Tidwell, Fields' Attorney. "Lastly, the video tape which she says is of her being raped is described as consensual sex in the report."

In a police disciplinary hearing Wednesday, Fields faced 3 alleged violations of police policy: neglect of duty, unbecoming conduct and untruthfulness during an internal investigation. 

Police Chief Fred Fletcher sustained the first two violations but did not sustain the allegation of untruthfulness. Instead he classified that claim as pending due to new evidence. Fields was one of 3 officers dismissed last week. 

Detective David Catchings Jr. who was charged with driving under the influence last December then arrested again for domestic assault while on paid administrative leave, was fired Monday. Officials said Sgt. Kevin Kinser resigned Monday ahead of his disciplinary hearing. 

He pleaded no contest to six charges of official misconduct and theft in November after guns and drugs went missing from the police department's evidence room. 

District Attorney General Neal Pinkston tells Channel 3 each case filed by the terminated officers will need to be evaluated to determine the extent of the terminated officer's role in the case and whether or not it is possible to proceed without the officer's participation in the prosecution.

"Their actions have jeopardized and in some cases will halt our ability to prosecute defendants," said General Neal Pinkston.

While Fields Attorney agrees the evidence in each case should be re-evaluated, he says it's unlikely the allegations against his client would even be admissible in court because Karl Fields has not been convicted of any crime. 
 
"A judge can choose to let it in but I can't imagine that a judge would let that in under the rules of evidence in Tennessee," said Tidwell. "Here you have to be convicted of a crime for that to be used or you have to commit some prior bad act that is relevant in some way to that case."

Neal Pinkston says it is likely many of Karl Fields' and David Catchings' Cases will move forward. In a homicide case, for example several detectives are typically involved in the investigation so there could be other officers who could testify at trial.

"Fields was never the person who discovered evidence," said Tidwell. "He just put all of the evidence together. Detectives work in pairs so when they take a statement for example there is always somebody there to record it."

Attorneys say a post-conviction release may be possible for Cordalro Strickland because he accepted a 15 year maximum sentence plea deal before the internal affairs investigation into Karl Fields was complete. 


Strickland's former attorney tells Channel 3 each defendant must have all of the impeachable evidence against any witness who is testifying against them before a plea deal is made. Strickland pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of Melvin Fennell. Fields was the lead investigator in the case.

"Everyone is going to come forth now I guarantee you if Karl Fields was the lead investigator, those cases are going to be dropped or dismissed and my son's case should be added right in there with those," said Audrey Cunningham, Cordalro Strickland's mother.

Strickland's mom tells Channel 3 she has a year to file the post conviction release motion. If it is granted her son could be awarded a new trial.

"It's far from over, nobody should be falsely incarcerated," said Cunningham. "When you're dealing with a crooked detective that says a lot."

Karl Fields has 3 pending cases in Criminal Court, one for First Degree Murder, the others involve aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping.

Unless another officer participated in the arrest, the District Attorney says it's likely all the DUI cases involving the terminated officers won't stick. Court records show officer David Catchings had one DUI case dismissed in March.

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