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Zane Jack Fields v. State of Idaho

May 25, 2011


Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Ada County. The Hon. Thomas F. Neville, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eismann, Chief Justice.

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

2011 Opinion No. 53

The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

This is an appeal from a judgment summarily dismissing an application for post-conviction relief based upon DNA test results and affidavits of trial witnesses. Because the DNA test results did not establish that petitioner did not commit the offense and the affidavits cannot support a claim for post-conviction relief, we affirm the district court.


On February 11, 1988, Zane Jack Fields (Fields) stabbed 69-year-old Mary Katherine Vanderford to death while stealing about $50 from the Wishing Well Gift Shop, the store in which she was working. Ms. Vanderford was alone in the store at the time, and there were no eye witnesses to the murder. She bled to death due to a stab wound in her neck. A jury found Fields guilty of felony murder, and the trial court sentenced him to death. After he was sentenced, Fields filed an application for post-conviction relief on April 18, 1991, which the district court denied following an evidentiary hearing. Fields appealed, and we upheld his

conviction and sentence and the denial of his application for post-conviction relief. State v. Fields, 127 Idaho 904, 908 P.2d 1211 (1995). We need not address the evidence presented during the trial, but it is summarized in the opinion issued on the first appeal.

Fields filed a second application for post-conviction relief. After giving notice of the intent to do so, the district court summarily dismissed the application without an evidentiary hearing. Fields appealed, and we upheld the dismissal. Fields v. State, 135 Idaho 286, 17 P.3d 230 (2000).

Fields filed a fourth application for post-conviction relief seeking a retroactive application of the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002). The district court dismissed that application, and we upheld the dismissal on appeal. Fields v. State, 149 Idaho 399, 234 P.3d 723 (2010).

This appeal involves Fields's third application for post-conviction relief, which he filed on June 27, 2002. In 2001, the legislature had amended the Uniform Post-Conviction Procedure Act, I.C. §§ 19-4901 through 19-4911, to include a claim for relief if fingerprint or DNA test results showed that the petitioner was innocent of the offense for which he or she had been convicted. Ch. 317, §§ 2 & 3, 2001 Idaho Sess. Laws 1126, 1128-30 (codified at I.C. §§ 19- 4901 & 19-4902). The amendment provided that a convicted defendant could obtain "fingerprint or forensic deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing on evidence that was secured in relation to the trial which resulted in his or her conviction but which was not subject to the testing that is now requested because the technology for the testing was not available at the time of trial." I.C. § 19- 4902(b). Fields sought to have nineteen latent fingerprints from the murder scene compared with the Automated Fingerprint Identification System national fingerprint database and to have DNA testing of substances on his coat that had tested positive as some type of blood, of hairs found on the victim's clothing, and of scrapings taken from her fingernails.

The district court ordered that the Idaho State Police Forensic Lab DNA test the coat, but the lab found that DNA testing could not be conducted because there was insufficient genetic material. The comparison of the fingerprints produced matches to two individuals, but there was no evidence linking them to the murder.

The DNA testing determined that the hairs found on the victim's clothing did not come from Fields. There was also male DNA found in the scrapings from the victim's fingernails, but it also did not come from Fields. However, there was no evidence that the hairs or the material scraped from the victim's fingernails came from her attacker.

On November 5, 2007, the State moved to dismiss Fields's petition on the ground that neither the fingerprint nor the DNA test results entitled Fields to relief. In response, Fields filed affidavits of Jeffrey L. Acheson, Betty Heaton, and Mari Munk, all of whom had testified during his trial. Mses. Heaton and Munk had been in the gift shop and had left shortly before the murder. They both testified to seeing a man in the store before they left, but at trial they did not identify Fields as being that man. Rather, they gave general descriptions of the man and his clothing, and those descriptions did not match Fields. In their affidavits, they basically recount their trial testimony and state that Fields did not look like the man they saw.

Acheson was one of four inmates who testified to incriminating statements made by Fields. In his affidavit, he stated that the other three inmates who also testified at the trial regarding incriminating statements by Fields "told me of how they had made up most of what they were saying, in order to get out of Orofino [a prison facility in north Idaho]." The district court denied Fields's application for post-conviction relief, and Fields appealed.


1. Did the district court err in summarily dismissing Fields's post-conviction claim based upon Idaho ...

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