The Fight To Save My Husband's Life

Wife Of Death Row Prisoner Nathson Fields Speaks Out

A recent demonstration outside the Cook County Court House for Nathson Fields.
By: Jamilah Fields

I believe the death penalty is pre-meditated murder by the state. It only produces another victim and brings terrible suffering to another family. There are not tears enough for what the death penalty has done to us.

I'm the wife of Nathson Fields, an innocent man sent to death row by an unjust system, by a detective who is above the law and by a crook -- former Judge Thomas Maloney, first judge ever convicted and sent to jail, who is now serving a 15-year sentence.

Nathson has been in prison for 14 years and four months. He spent 11 of those years on death row. These years cannot be given back to us.

Nathson won a new trial in January 1998. During the hearing that won my husband a new trial, one of the chief litigators for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Peter Fisher, admitted before the Illinois Supreme Court that the state could not and would not retry Nathson Fields because the case had gone stale. But today, 22 months later, he's still waiting to be retried, and the state has insisted that they are going to seek the death penalty again.

The state has no evidence at all against my husband. The only remaining witnesses who testified against Nathson recently signed affidavits saying that they lied during the original trial due to the coercion of Detective David O'Callaghan.

Over the years, I've learned a hard lesson: the system left on its own will not free my husband. His freedom will be won from outside forces -- community leaders and activists, people who are not afraid to speak up against a system that does not work.

I think of Mumia Abu-Jamal and how badly the state wants to silence him because he has so many supporters worldwide and because Mumia's struggle for his own life is connected to a broader struggle for justice.

Justice is something my husband has been fighting for even behind bars. He faced retribution and was even beaten by prison guards because of his activism and his unwillingness to remain silent. What happened to my husband could happen to any one of us, so don't be silent.

Today, I don't trust anything that has to do with the justice system. I go into the courtroom not trusting the judge or the prosecutors. What if the judge is another Thomas Maloney? Why are the prosecutors still trying to convict my husband? I believe that these prosecutors have a "win at any cost" mentality. They don't care if the defendant is guilty or innocent -- they only care about their careers.

I look at the 12 innocent men who have been released from Illinois' death row. The system kept them on death row even when it was apparent that they were innocent!

So speak out and make your voice heard. It's the only way we will get the justice that we deserve. The only way to stop the shocking reality of the death penalty is to support the struggles toward abolishing it.

An end to the death penalty is an important step ensuring that governments recognize the dignity of human beings. Ending the death penalty would serve as a glimmer of hope for a better world.