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Fields v. State

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise

November 27, 2013

Zane Jack FIELDS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
STATE of Idaho, Respondent.

Page 588

Federal Public Defender Services of Idaho, Boise, attorneys for Appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, attorneys for Respondent.

WALTERS, Justice pro tem.

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

Appellant Zane J. Fields was sentenced to death for first degree murder on March 7, 1991. On July 28, 2011, Fields filed his sixth successive petition for post-conviction relief in the Ada County district court. He raised claims of actual innocence, prosecutorial misconduct, and violations of the right to counsel, due process, and the right to a fair trial. The district court granted the State's motion to dismiss Fields's petition because his claims were barred by I.C. § 19-2719(5), the statute governing post-conviction procedure in capital cases. Fields now appeals the district court's dismissal of his petition. We affirm.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On February 11, 1988, Fields stabbed 69-year-old Mary Katherine Vanderford to death while stealing about $50 from the store in which she was working. Vanderford was alone in the store at the time, and there were no eyewitnesses to the murder. She bled to death due to a stab wound in her neck. See Fields v. State, 154 Idaho 347, 348, 298 P.3d 241, 242 (2013)( Fields V ).

At Fields's preliminary hearing, an inmate Harold Gilcrist testified that Fields confessed to the crime and made other incriminating remarks to him. At Fields's trial, Gilcrist did not testify, but three other inmates did: Jeffrey Acheson, Joe Heistand, and Scott Bianchi. Each inmate testified that Fields made incriminating statements to them about the crime while they were housed in Ada County Jail. The jury found Fields guilty of felony murder and the trial court sentenced him to death. At Fields's motion for a new trial, Gilcrist again testified and he also testified at Fields's first post-conviction proceeding. Fields has previously filed five petitions for post-conviction relief. See id. at 348-49, 298 P.3d at 242-43.

Page 589

Fields's sixth petition for post-conviction relief, filed on July 28, 2011, is now before this Court. According to Fields, on June 17, 2011, Gilcrist met with Greg Worthen, an investigator assigned to Fields's post-conviction case, and Gilcrist verbally recanted his testimony. Then, on July 8, 2011, Gilcrist signed a non-notarized declaration stating that his testimony and previous statements were false. He claimed he was motivated by a " desire to burn Fields" for assaulting him. Gilcrist also stated he learned about Fields's crime from Detective Smith. Further, Gilcrist explained that he shared the information he learned from Detective Smith with inmates Heistand and Bianchi. Gilcrist claimed neither Heistand nor Bianchi could have testified against Fields without the information from him. Based on these facts, Fields's petition raised claims of actual innocence based on Gilcrist's recantation, prosecutorial misconduct based on Detective Smith's " manipulation of witnesses," and " violations of right to counsel, due process and fair trial rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments." To support these claims, Fields attached to his petition an affidavit by Worthen, Gilcrist's declaration, an affidavit by Acheson, and the transcript of Bianchi's testimony from a proceeding on Fields's motion for a new trial.

The State moved to dismiss the petition on numerous grounds. In response to the State's arguments that the petition failed to provide material facts and was untimely, Fields submitted a notarized affidavit by Gilcrist dated September 30, 2011, with the same information as the original declaration. Fields also submitted an affidavit by his former counsel Bruce Livingston. Later, Fields submitted another affidavit by Gilcrist dated March 14, 2012, stating that Gilcrist would not have come forward with his recantation but for a major medical crisis in 2009.

The district court granted the State's motion to dismiss Fields's petition on three grounds. First, the district court determined the petition was untimely because the petition did not meet the burden of alleging facts to show when his claims were known or reasonably should have been known as required by I.C. § 19-2719(5). Second, the district court determined Fields's petition was not supported by material facts stated under oath or affirmation as required by I.C. § 19-2719(5)(a) and I.C. § 19-4903. Third, the district court determined the matters in the petition were merely impeaching under I.C. § 19-2719(5)(b). Based on these grounds, the district court entered an order dismissing Fields's petition on November 29, 2012. Fields timely appealed to this Court.

III. ISSUES ON APPEAL


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